Tesla Continues to Cut Jobs and Federal Authorities Investigate Waymo | TechCrunch - Latest Global News

Tesla Continues to Cut Jobs and Federal Authorities Investigate Waymo | TechCrunch

Welcome back to TechCrunch Mobility – your central hub for news and insight into the future of transportation. Register here for free – just click on TechCrunch Mobility!

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and issue in transportation, including the escalation of tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles Tesla Strike in Sweden, a federal investigation Waymoa buzzy EV IPO, executives shuffling past fordand a Above Shuttle service developed for commuters in India and Egypt, adapted for American concertgoers.

Let’s go!

A little bird

Photo credit: Bryce Durbin

We heard from a a few small birds this week.

First of all, a deep dive for all autonomous vehicle nerds. Remember Strong, the racing series for autonomous vehicles that never existed? As you may recall, it died in 2022, but founder Denis Sverdlov (who also founded the now-defunct EV startup Arrival) had talked about reviving it if more funding was secured. It seems that these dreams have died. A little bird discovered that the domain roborace.com is for sale.

In the meantime, we continue to chat little birds about autonomous vehicle maker Motional. As you may recall, the autonomous vehicle startup received a $475 million direct investment from Hyundai. This money came with some conditions, namely a tightening of the belt, which included the cessation of all commercial activities. Thanks to several insiders, we learn that more than 550 employees, or about 40% of Motional’s workforce, have been laid off. While many of these were in commercial operations, the cuts impacted other departments, including product, security, cybersecurity and legal.

Do you have a tip for us? Email Kirsten Korosec at [email protected], Sean O’Kane at [email protected] or Rebecca Bellan at [email protected]. Or check out this guide to learn how to contact us using encrypted messaging apps or SecureDrop.

Offers!

Station money
Photo credit: Bryce Durbin

A trade war with China could intensify and demand for electric vehicles could weaken, but apparently that won’t be enough to deter Zeekr investors!

Zeekr Intelligent Technology Holding, the Chinese electric vehicle brand owned by China’s Geely Holdings, sold 21 million shares at $21 per share, raising $441 million, an increase from previous plans to sell 17.5 million shares between $18 and $21 sell. On Zeekr’s first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange, shares rose 38%, giving the company a $7 billion valuation – and the capital it needs to expand outside of China in 2024.

Shares have calmed down somewhat since then, but Zeekr is still holding on to a $6.6 billion market cap. That’s surprising stability considering President Joe Biden has released plans to increase tariffs on Chinese electric vehicle imports from 25% to 100% in 2024.

Other offers that caught my attention…

Kyle Vogt, the founder and former CEO of Cruise, has a new VC-backed robotics startup focused on household chores called Bot Company. As a reminder, Vogt resigned from Cruise in November, just weeks after one of the company’s robot taxis struck and carried away a pedestrian. But investors still seem interested in supporting Vogt and his ideas. Sidebar: Comma.ai Founder and arsonist Cold George didn’t seem too pleased.

Vogt, who co-founded the Bot Company with Paril Jain, Tesla’s former AI tech team leader, and Luke Holoubek, a former Cruise software engineer, raised $150 million from former GitHub CEO and investor Nat Friedman, Pioneer founder and investor Daniel Gross and Spark Capital general partner Nabeel Hyatt, Stripe CEO Patrick Collison, Stripe co-founder John Collison and Quiet Capital.

Li Industries, a lithium-ion battery recycling startup in Pineville, North Carolina, has raised $36 million in a Series B funding round co-led by Bosch Ventures, Khosla Ventures and LG Tech Ventures. Other new investors included Formosa Smart Energy Tech Corp., Anglo American Decarbonization Ventures and Chevron Technology Ventures, which joined as new investors. Previous backers Shell Ventures and Myriad Ventures have also joined.

Magic trail, the Amsterdam-based startup that has created software development kits to integrate maps, location and navigation into ride-hailing apps, micromobility and vehicles, has raised €3 million ($3.26 million). The round was led by No Such Ventures.

Orange chargerA startup that sells landlords, among other things, a smart 240-volt socket has raised $6.5 million in a seed round led by Munich Re Ventures and Climactic with participation from Baukunst, Crow Holdings, Lincoln Property Ventures and Spacecadet Ventures collected.

Above agreed to the purchase Foodpanda – Delivery Hero’s Taiwanese subsidiary – for $950 million in cash. As part of the deal, Uber will acquire a stake in Delivery Hero by purchasing $300 million in newly issued common stock.

Notable reading and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

cruise has reportedly reached a settlement of between $8 million and $12 million with the pedestrian who was hit and then dragged by one of its robotaxis. TechCrunch has confirmed this area.

Meanwhile, Cruise is ramping up robotaxi testing in Phoenix with “monitored” autonomous driving.

WaymoThe autonomous vehicle software is currently under investigation after federal regulators received 22 reports that the robotaxis was crashing or potentially violating traffic safety laws by driving in the wrong lane or into construction zones.

Electric vehicles, chargers and batteries

Fisker has once again drawn the attention of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The federal agency opened a fourth investigation into the Fisker Ocean SUV, this time to investigate multiple claims of “unintentional automatic emergency braking.”

Tesla isn’t done cutting jobs yet. CEO Elon Musk said in April that the company would lay off more than 10% of its 140,000 employees. Since then, we have seen several waves that suggest the cuts have gone beyond the original target. There were reports that Musk wanted to cut 20% of the workforce. According to a warning (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification), 601 workers are currently employed in the Tesla factories in California.

By the way, remember when Musk fired the entire Supercharger team? reporter Tim sings got an inside look at the Tesla Supercharger team and discovered, among other things, that it was actually profitable. Since publishing his article, Musk has reportedly begun rehiring parts of that team.

This week’s bikes

Mercedes Sprinter
Photo credit: Kirsten Korosec

The 2024 Mercedes-Benz eSprinter is more than just a huge all-electric transporter. Although, as you can see from this photo, it’s a big deal. I only had a few days behind the wheel, but it was enough to learn that despite its size, it can easily maneuver in traffic. The van has a lot of technology and costs from $71,866.

There’s a bit too much to list, so here are just a few key points. Firstly, the range of the 113 kilowatt hour battery (according to the European WLTP cycle) is said to be 273 miles, which is significantly more than the 159 mile range of the Ford E-Transit van.

The interior layout puts function first, and the infotainment system clearly displays the information a commercial driver might need and can be accessed via voice or the steering wheel. There are also EV-specific features, including a navigation setting that calculates an optimized route including charging stops in real time, depending on the current traffic situation and the topography of the route.

Although the towing capacity is lower than its diesel counterpart, the electric van had many advantages, particularly its handling.

Another note about regenerative braking, which took some getting used to. There are five selectable recuperation levels to choose from (D-, D, D+, D++ and “D Auto”), all of which can be adjusted using the paddles on either side of the steering wheel. The car is conceptually great. This setting automatically determines when the brake needs to be applied based on the traffic situation and adjusts accordingly. I found that it was easy to use, but unexpectedly slammed on the brakes when a vehicle far ahead of me moved into my lane.

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