GM self-driving unit hires former Delta Air executive as COO

Signage is displayed outside the General Motors Co. Lansing Delta Township Assembly Plant stands in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. The plant started production in 2006 and employs over 2,500 Employees over two shifts. Photographer: Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg
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(Bloomberg) -- Cruise LLC, the self-driving car startup majority owned by General Motors Co., has hired former Delta Air Lines Inc. Chief Operating Officer Gil West for the same position as it prepares to start offering paid robotaxi rides in San Francisco.

West is the second former Delta executive hired by GM and its related companies in recent months. The Detroit automaker hired Paul Jacobson as its chief finance officer in October.

The creation of the new COO role comes as Cruise is gearing up to start bringing in revenue from its planned commercial robotaxi business. The company received a permit to run five autonomous cars without a safety driver last year and began testing them on public roads in November.

“Gil’s track record of delivering amazing customer experience, exceptional operating performance and flawless safety, all at large scale, is a perfect fit for Cruise as we begin the journey to commercialize our self-driving technology,” Cruise Chief Executive Officer Dan Ammann said in a statement.

Cruise hasn’t set a date to begin charging fares for its driverless rides but is preparing to do so. The company needs permission from California and is working on that next step.

The GM unit is among a number of driverless-technology companies jostling for a piece of the nascent self-driving car market. Another startup, Nuro Inc., won approval last month from California to become the first in the state to begin commercial deliveries in autonomous vehicles.

West retired from Delta in September after 12 years at the carrier, where he helped lead the integration of its 2008 merger with Northwest Airlines. During his tenure, Delta achieved industry-leading reliability and customer service but also had to contend with a massive computer-network failure in 2016 that forced the cancellation of more than a thousand flights when backup systems failed to kick in.

Bloomberg News