Tesla retains chopping jobs and the feds probe Waymo


Welcome again to TechCrunch Mobility — your central hub for information and insights on the way forward for transportation. Enroll right here without cost — simply click on TechCrunch Mobility!

What a wild week for transportation information! It was a smorgasbord of reports that appeared to the touch each sector and theme in transportation, together with tariffs on Chinese language EVs, an escalating Tesla strike in Sweden, a federal investigation into Waymo, a buzzy EV IPO, government shuffling at Ford, and an Uber shuttle service developed for commuters in India and Egypt that has been tailored for American concertgoers. 

Let’s go!

A bit of chook

Picture Credit: Bryce Durbin

We heard from a few little birds this week. 

First up, right here’s a deep lower for all these autonomous automobile nerds. Bear in mind Roborace, the autonomous automobile racing sequence that by no means was? As you would possibly recall, it died in 2022, however founder Denis Sverdlov (who additionally based the now-defunct EV startup Arrival) had talked about making an attempt to revive it if extra funds have been secured. It appears these desires have died. One little chook noticed that the roborace.com area is up on the market. 

In the meantime, we proceed to speak to little birds in regards to the autonomous automobile firm Motional. As you would possibly recall, the autonomous automobile startup obtained a direct funding of $475 million from Hyundai. That cash got here with some strings, specifically some belt tightening that included pausing all industrial operations. Our newest scoop, because of a number of insiders, is that greater than 550 workers, or about 40% of its workforce, have been laid off from Motional. Whereas a lot of these have been in industrial operations, the cuts affected different departments, together with product, security, cybersecurity and authorized groups.

Bought a tip for us? Electronic mail Kirsten Korosec at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com, Sean O’Kane at sean.okane@techcrunch.com or Rebecca Bellan at rebecca.bellan@techcrunch.com. Or try these directions to learn to contact us by way of encrypted messaging apps or SecureDrop.


Picture Credit: Bryce Durbin

A commerce struggle with China could also be heating up and EV demand could also be softening, however it’s apparently not sufficient to discourage Zeekr traders!

Zeekr Clever Know-how Holding, the Chinese language EV model beneath China’s Geely Holdings, bought 21 million shares at $21 per share to lift $441 million, an upsize from earlier plans to promote 17.5 million shares between $18 and $21. Shares popped 38% on Zeekr’s first day of buying and selling on the New York Inventory Trade, giving it a valuation of $7 billion — and the capital it must increase outdoors China in 2024.

Shares have settled a bit since, however Zeekr continues to be holding onto a $6.6 billion market cap. That’s stunning stability contemplating President Joe Biden launched plans to improve tariffs on imports of Chinese language EVs from 25% to 100% in 2024.

Different offers that bought my consideration …

Kyle Vogt, the founder and former CEO of Cruise, has a brand new VC-backed robotics startup centered on family chores referred to as the Bot Firm. Reminder: Vogt resigned from Cruise in November simply weeks after one of many firm’s robotaxis hit and dragged a pedestrian. However traders nonetheless appear eager to again Vogt and his concepts. Sidebar: Comma.ai founder and firebrand George Hotz didn’t appear too happy

Vogt, who co-founded the Bot Firm with former Tesla AI tech crew chief Paril Jain and an ex-Cruise software program engineer Luke Holoubek, raised $150 million from former GitHub CEO and investor Nat Friedman, Pioneer founder and investor Daniel Gross, Spark Capital basic companion Nabeel Hyatt, Stripe CEO Patrick Collison, Stripe co-founder John Collison and Quiet Capital. 

Li Industries, a Pineville, North Carolina, lithium-ion battery recycling startup, raised $36 million in a Sequence B funding spherical co-led by Bosch Ventures, Khosla Ventures and LG Tech Ventures. Different new traders included Formosa Sensible Vitality Tech Corp., Anglo American Decarbonization Ventures and Chevron Know-how Ventures coming in as new traders. Earlier backers Shell Ventures and Myriad Ventures additionally joined. 

Magic Lane, the Amsterdam-based startup that developed software program improvement kits to convey mapping, location and navigation into ride-hailing apps, micromobility and automobiles, raised €3 million ($3.26 million). The spherical was led by No Such Ventures.

Orange Charger, a startup that sells landlords a 240-volt good outlet amongst different merchandise, has raised $6.5 million in a seed spherical led by Munich Re Ventures and Climactic with participation by Baukunst, Crow Holdings, Lincoln Property Ventures, and Spacecadet Ventures.

Uber agreed to purchase Foodpanda — the Taiwan unit of Supply Hero — for $950 million in money. As a part of the deal, Uber will take a stake in Supply Hero by means of the acquisition of $300 million newly issued unusual shares.

Notable reads and different tidbits

Autonomous automobiles

Cruise has reportedly reached a settlement between $8 million and $12 million with the pedestrian who was hit after which dragged by one among its robotaxis. TechCrunch has confirmed that vary. 

In the meantime, Cruise is ramping up robotaxi testing in Phoenix with “supervised” autonomous driving. 

Waymo’s autonomous automobile software program is beneath investigation after federal regulators obtained 22 studies of the robotaxis crashing or doubtlessly violating site visitors security legal guidelines by driving within the unsuitable lane or into building zones.

Electrical automobiles, charging & batteries

Fisker has the eye of the U.S. Nationwide Freeway Site visitors Security Administration as soon as once more. The federal company opened a fourth investigation into the Fisker Ocean SUV, this time to probe a number of claims of “inadvertent Computerized Emergency Braking.”

Tesla isn’t performed chopping jobs. CEO Elon Musk mentioned in April that the corporate would lay off greater than 10% of its 140,000-person workforce. We’ve seen a number of waves since then that counsel the cuts have gone past that preliminary goal. There have been studies that Musk wished to chop 20% of workers. The most recent is 601 staff at Tesla services in California, in line with a Employee Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) discover. 

By the way in which, bear in mind when Musk axed your complete Supercharger crew? Reporter Tim De Chant bought an inside look into the Tesla Supercharger crew, together with that it was certainly worthwhile. Since his article was printed, Musk has reportedly began hiring a few of that crew again. 

This week’s wheels

mercedes esprinter
Picture Credit: Kirsten Korosec

The 2024 Mercedes-Benz eSprinter is greater than only a big all-electric cargo van. Though as you may see on this photograph, it’s a big-un. I solely had a number of days behind the wheel, however it was sufficient to study it maneuvered simply in site visitors — despite its dimension. The van has fairly a little bit of tech packed inside and begins at $71,866. 

There’s a bit an excessive amount of to checklist, so listed below are only a few necessary bits. First up, the vary from the 113-kilowatt hour battery (per the European WLTP cycle) is meant to be 273 miles, which is significantly greater than the 159-mile vary on the Ford E-transit van.

The inside structure places perform first and the infotainment system clearly shows the knowledge a industrial driver would possibly want, and may be accessed by voice or the steering wheel. There are EV-specific options as nicely, together with a navigation setting that calculates an optimized route, together with charging stops in actual time relying on the present site visitors state of affairs and topography of the route.

Whereas the towing capability is lower than its diesel counterpart, there was loads of upside to the EV van, notably its drivability. 

One word in regards to the regenerative braking that took some getting used to. There are 5 selectable recuperation ranges to select from (D-, D, D+, D++ and ‘D Auto’), all of which may be adjusted with the paddles on both aspect of the steering wheel. D Auto is conceptually nice. That setting routinely determines when to use the brake primarily based on the site visitors state of affairs and adjusts accordingly. I discovered that it was simple to make use of however would unexpectedly hit the brakes if a automobile, far forward of me, would come into my lane.

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