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GM-owned Cruise Automation is developing autonomous driving capabilities using the Chevy Bolt as a testbed. (General Motors / Cruise Automation Photo)

Cruise Automation, General Motors’ autonomous-vehicle subsidiary, says it’s getting ready to open up an office in the Seattle area that could employ as many as 200 engineers within a year.

Don’t expect Cruise to start putting its self-driving Chevy Bolts on the streets of Seattle, as the San Francisco-based venture has done in its hometown as well as in Arizona and the Detroit area. There aren’t any plans to test autonomous vehicles in the Seattle area. But Cruise has big plans to take advantage of Seattle’s status as a magnet for software engineers, data analysts and experts in computer vision and machine learning.

“To continue growing a team that is diverse and rich in talent, we feel that it’s important to explore talent pools outside of the Bay Area, and Seattle’s vibrant tech community and proximity to our headquarters in San Francisco make it a logical choice,” Kyle Vogt, Cruise’s CEO and co-founder, said in a statement emailed to GeekWire.

It helps that Cruise’s other co-founder and chief operating officer, Dan Kan, grew up in the Seattle area. (And for what it’s worth, Dan’s older brother, Justin Kan, co-founded the online video platform that eventually gave rise to Twitch. Vogt was also a co-founder of that platform, Justin.TV.)

Cruise is in the process of determining precisely where it’ll put its engineering office, whether in Seattle itself or in an outlying community such as Bellevue or Redmond. Two Cruise engineers currently telecommute from the Seattle area, but the plan calls for 100 to 200 engineers to be working at the new office by the end of 2019.

The vast majority of those engineers are expected to be new hires rather than employees transferred from Cruise facilities elsewhere.

Cruise was acquired by GM in 2016 at a reported cost of more than $1 billion. Since then, it’s attracted investments of $2.25 billion from SoftBank and $2.75 billion from Honda, reportedly boosting its valuation to $14.6 billion.

At the time of the GM acquisition, Cruise had 40 employees. Now Cruise says its workforce is growing at a rate of 30 to 40 percent per quarter, currently amounting to just shy of 1,100 employees. Although the venture also has outposts in Phoenix, Pasadena and elsewhere, Seattle seems destined to become the closest thing Cruise has to an HQ2.

Cruise and GM are aiming to bring driverless cars to market as part of a ride-hailing network in 2019. And who knows? Maybe some of those Seattle engineers will be riding self-driving cars to work soon afterward.

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