Tesla continues to cut jobs and the feds investigate Waymo

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What a crazy week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every transportation sector and topic, including tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles, an escalation tesla strike in Sweden, a federal investigation into Waymoa lively electric vehicle IPO, executives shuffling Fordand a Uber Transportation service developed for travelers in India and Egypt that has been adapted for American concert-goers.

Come on!

a little bird

Image credits: Bryce Durbin

we hear from a some little birds this week.

First of all, here’s a deep cut for all those autonomous vehicle nerds out there. Remember roborace, the autonomous vehicle racing series that never was? As you may recall, it died in 2022, but founder Denis Sverdlov (who also founded the now-defunct electric vehicle startup Arrival) had talked about trying to revive it if more funding could be found. It seems those dreams have died. A little bird discovered that the domain roborace.com is for sale.

Meanwhile, we continue to talk with little birds about the autonomous vehicle company Motional. As you may recall, the autonomous vehicle startup received a direct investment of $475 million from Hyundai. That money came with some conditions, namely a belt-tightening that included pausing all business operations. Our latest scoop, thanks to several experts, is that more than 550 employees, or about 40% of its workforce, have been laid off from Motional. While many of them were in commercial operations, the cuts affected other departments, including product, security, cybersecurity and legal teams.

Do you have a suggestion for us? Email Kirsten Korosec at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com, Sean O’Kane at sean.okane@techcrunch.com, or Rebecca Bellan at rebecca.bellan@techcrunch.com. Or see these instructions to learn how to communicate with us via encrypted messaging apps or SecureDrop.

Offers!

money the station
Image credits: Bryce Durbin

A trade war with China may be escalating and demand for electric vehicles may be weakening, but it’s apparently not enough to discourage Zeekr investors!

Zeekr Smart Technology Holding, the Chinese electric vehicle brand from China’s Geely Holdings, sold 21 million shares at $21 each to raise $441 million, an increase from earlier plans to sell 17.5 million shares between 18 and 21 Dollars. Shares rose 38% on Zeekr’s first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange, giving it a valuation of $7 billion and the capital it needs to expand outside China in 2024.

Shares have stabilized a bit since then, but Zeekr still maintains a market cap of $6.6 billion. This is surprising stability considering President Joe Biden released plans to increase tariffs on Chinese electric vehicle imports from 25% to 100% in 2024.

Other offers that caught my attention…

Kyle Vogt, founder and former CEO of Cruise, has a new venture-backed robotics startup focused on household tasks called Bot Company. Reminder: Vogt resigned from Cruise in November, just weeks after one of the company’s robotaxis hit and dragged a pedestrian. But investors still seem willing to back Vogt and his ideas. Sidebar: Coma.ai founder and agitator George Hotz He didn’t seem very happy.

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

Li Industries, a lithium-ion battery recycling startup from Pineville, North Carolina, 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 came on board as new investors. Previous backers Shell Ventures and Myriad Ventures also joined.

magic lane, the Amsterdam-based startup that developed software development kits to add maps, location, and navigation to ride-hailing, micromobility, and vehicle apps, raised €3 million ($3.26 million). The round was led by No Such Ventures.

orange chargerA startup that sells homeowners a 240-volt smart outlet, among other products, 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.

Uber agreed to buy food panda – the Taiwanese unit of Delivery Hero – 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 readings and other tidbits

autonomous vehicles

Cruise It 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 that range.

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

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

Electric vehicles, charging and batteries.

fisker is once again attracting the attention of the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The federal agency opened a fourth investigation into the Fisker Ocean SUV, this time to investigate multiple allegations of “involuntary automatic emergency braking.”

tesla He hasn’t finished cutting jobs. CEO Elon Musk said in April that the company would lay off more than 10% of its 140,000-person workforce. Since then we have seen several waves that suggest the cuts have gone beyond that initial goal. There have been reports that Musk wanted to cut 20% of employees. The latest is 601 workers at Tesla facilities in California, according to a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) notice.

By the way, remember when Musk fired the entire Supercharger team? Reporter Tim Dechant I took a look inside the Tesla Supercharger kit and found that it was indeed profitable. Since his article was published, Musk has reportedly started hiring part of that team.

This week’s wheels

mercedes sprinter
Image credits: Kirsten Korosec

He 2024 Mercedes-Benz eSprinter It’s more than just a giant all-electric cargo van. Although as you can see in this photo it is a big one. I only spent a few days behind the wheel, but they were enough to learn that it maneuvered easily in traffic, despite its size. The truck has quite a bit of technology inside and has a starting price of $71,866.

There is too much to list, so here are just a few highlights. First, the range of the 113-kilowatt-hour battery (based on the European WLTP cycle) is assumed to be 273 miles, which is considerably more than the 159-mile range of the Ford E-transit van.

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

While towing capacity is less than its diesel counterpart, the EV truck had many advantages, particularly its drivability.

A note on the regenerative braking which took some getting used to. There are five selectable recovery 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. D Auto is conceptually great. That setting automatically determines when to apply the brake based on the traffic situation and adjusts accordingly. I found it to be easy to use, but I would slam on the brakes unexpectedly if a vehicle, far ahead of me, entered my lane.

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