AV world layoffs are coming, VW plans ‘big strides’ in China and within Cruise’s robot axi failures – TechCrunch

The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to get it in your inbox every weekend.

Welcome back to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future ways of transporting people and packages from point A to point B.

Before we jump in, I wanted to point out that Rebecca Bellan is absent this week, which means that micromobbin’ is also taking a break (a micromobility story I found interesting: Amazon exchange vans for cargo bikes in central London).

Speaking of Rebecca, she leads our founders Q&A series that has been running for a year now. As part of the series, a year after their first interview, we reach out to the founders to see what happened, what they learned, and even where they failed.

Our pick this month: Veo Co-Founder and CEO Candice Xie.

As always you can email me at [email protected] to share thoughts, criticisms, opinions or tips. You can also send a direct message to @kirstenkorosec

A little bird

flashing cat bird green

Here are some nuggets I hear from the birds that have whispered in my ear.

There will be layoffs for the autonomous driving world. An example I wrote about is: Argo AI† But I hear rumors that there will be more layoffs at other companies this quarter. Like Argo, these attempts to adapt to some sort of overcrowding seem like.


Resembling wheels, which offers riding scooters and integrated helmet technology, has a number of employees on leave. You may recall that last month Helbiz said it had signed a letter of intent to acquire Wheels. These last days of leave follow another round that took place last month.

Offer of the week

money the station

While we traditionally like to focus on two-, three- and four-wheel vehicles and, of course, airplanes, sometimes it’s worth highlighting a deal that affects transportation. I am talking about the delivery of goods and specifically, that of Amazon investment in and collaboration with Grubhub

The commercial terms of the agreement appear to give Amazon an interest in Just eat takeawaywho owns Grubhub in the United States.

Amazon tried to build its own delivery competitor to Grubhub and Doordash, then scrapped that effort in 2019. This new strategy aims to encourage more signups for its Prime subscription service and give it a slice of the food delivery game. (Prime members get one year of free Grubhub+ membership).

Why should you care? Amazon has its fingers in just about every piece of logistics and delivery, including that burrito you want to order, and it invests in, acquires, collaborates or builds in-house robotics, technology for autonomous vehicles, EVs and drones. At some point, all these pieces will come together.

Other deals that caught my eye this week…

Antin Infrastructure Partners invested in RAW chargingcapital that will support the UK’s EV fast-charging startup’s £250 million ($300 million) EV charger installation plan.

APFusion, an automotive B2B marketplace for the salvage industry, has raised $6.5 million in a seed round co-led by Left Lane Capital and Bedrock Capital. Existing investor M25 also participated.

EVCS, a fast-charging electric car network, raised $68.8 million consisting of a $50 million debt facility from Spring Lane Capital and a $18.8 million Series A equity investment co-led by Abdo Partners, Spring Lane Capital and the Copulos Group. EVCS said it plans to more than double its network footprint to nearly 1,500 chargers by 2023.

Mullen Automotivethe EV SPAC, said it has eliminated $17.5 million in corporate debt and reduced its total debt burden from more than $30 million last year to an estimated $11 million currently.

North Volt, the Swedish battery maker, has secured new funds against last year’s valuation of $12 billion, Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the matter. Separately, Northvolt said it has signed a $1.1 billion convertible bond to fund an expansion of its manufacturing capacity in Europe.

Scandinavian airline SAS has filed for bankruptcy protection in the US after a pilot strike that it said put pressure on already tight finances.

Volvo Groups venture arm has made an undisclosed strategic investment in Optibus, an Israel-based startup that uses AI to help public transit agencies plan and manage their networks. The investment comes about two months after raising $100 million in a Series D round.

Remarkable lectures and other facts

Autonomous vehicles

Argo AI has laid off approximately 150 people from its global workforce, which today numbers more than 2,000. The company is still hiring, but the pace has slowed down, a source told me.

Cruises The robotaxi outage extended beyond the only roadblock incident we reported last week. Wired’s Aarian Marshall has an excellent article covering a series of incidents where the GM subsidiary lost contact with its autonomous vehicles, leaving them stuck in traffic and trapped human drivers.

outriderthe Golden, Colorado-based company is releasing a next-generation autonomy kit for jobsite automation, FreightWaves reported.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a special investigation into a crash in San Francisco involving an autonomous Cruise vehicle that suffered minor injuries.

Electric vehicles & batteries

Consumer Reports released the results of a survey that found 28% of US respondents would not buy an electric vehicle.

Can North Star succeed where other EV SPACs have failed?

Rivian manufactured 4,401 EVs at its Normal, Illinois manufacturing facility in the second quarter and delivered 4,467 in the quarter ended June 30, the company reported. Rivian said it is on track to meet its production target of 25,000 by the end of the year.

Tata Motors aims to sell 50,000 electric vehicles by the end of the fiscal year ending March 31, company chairman Natarajan Chandrasekaran said at a shareholders’ meeting.

Toyota reached the 200,000 unit limit on electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit.

Volkswagen Group broke ground at the first of six battery factories it expects to build in Europe, the official kick-off of a new battery company called PowerCo. The plan is to invest $20 billion by 2030 to become a global leader in electric vehicles.

Technology in the car

Digital distraction in vehicles is getting worse, LA Times reports (subscription).

Volkswagen Director Herbert Diess said the company is planning “major steps” in China, including employing several thousand people at its automotive software arm, Cariad.

Tesla

Another week, another 5 million Tesla stories.

  1. lawyers A representative of two former Tesla employees who were fired in mid-June filed an emergency motion asking a judge to ban the electric vehicle manufacturer from forcing employees to sign releases in exchange for less severance pay than federal law provides.
  2. Elon Musk has tried to terminate his agreement to buy Twitter. When you read the letter, this is going to be, er, well, difficult. Let the legal battle begin! The announcement did cause a small rise in Tesla’s share price.

  3. Tesla plans to open its Supercharger network to other electric vehicles by the end of the year, according to a White House memo sharing the automaker’s plans.

  4. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened an investigation into a fatal accident involving a Tesla, according to documents reviewed by TechCrunch.

Miscellaneous

The Danger of License Plate Readers in Post-Roe America, from Wired.

People

ZF Friedrichshafen has appointed Holger Klein as the next chairman and CEO, succeeding Wolf-Henning Scheider, who will leave the company in early 2023. Klein currently serves on the board of directors of ZF, focusing on the Asia-Pacific region.