Transportation

Tesla drives Luminar lidar sales and Motional pauses robotaxi plans

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Motional's Hyundai Ioniq 5 AV with Uber logo
Image Credits: Motional

Welcome back to TechCrunch Mobility — your central hub for news and insights on the future of transportation. Sign up here for free — just click TechCrunch Mobility!

Tap, tap. Mic check. Check 1, 2, 3. This thing on? Hey hey, yup, it’s the same TechCrunch Mobility newsletter you love, but on a different day. That’s right, this is not Sunday. It is in fact, Thursday morning.  Shall we jump into the latest transportation news? Heck yeah, let’s do this.

A little bird

blinky cat bird green
Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

The little birds in the autonomous vehicle industry were active this week. The biggie was a tip about Motional, the autonomous vehicle startup created by a joint venture between Hyundai and Aptiv. If you recall, Hyundai recently agreed to spend nearly $1 billion on Motional — $475 million as a direct investment into the company and another $448 million to buy 11% of Aptiv’s common equity interest in the venture. 

This week, we got to the consequences part of that deal. Motional is pausing all commercial operations and pushing plans to launch a driverless taxi service to 2026 — two years later than planned. The aim is to make progress on the core technology while preserving capital. 

That move comes at a cost: deep cuts across the organization. While the company has not publicly shared layoff numbers, we’re hearing hundreds have been laid off. If you were affected, reach out to us.

Got a tip 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.

Deals!

money the station
Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

Wow, two huge autonomous vehicle investments in the span of a few days. Pretty amazing, considering that AVs are long past the hypey, let’s-throw-money-at-this-tech era. Maybe AVs are getting swept into the frenzy of AI investments. Either way, deals are happening!

One week after Hyundai’s nearly $1 billion deal with Motional, a U.K. startup called Wayve raised $1.05 billion in a Series C funding round led by SoftBank Group. (Oh, SoftBank, another AV company?) Nvidia and existing investor Microsoft also participated. Wayve’s early-stage investors include Meta’s head of AI, Yann LeCun.

Wayve, founded in 2017, is taking a self-learning approach (aka, end-to-end deep learning) rather than a rules-based system for autonomous driving. It’s also not standing up robotaxi fleets like Waymo, Cruise or Motional and instead plans to be a supplier to OEMs. Want even more details on this startup? Check out this interview with Wayve co-founder and CEO Alex Kendall.

Other deals that got my attention …

EnviroSpark, the EV charging company, raised $50 million from Basalt Infrastructure Partners.

Momenta, the Chinese autonomous vehicle tech startup that is backed by GM, filed confidentially for a U.S. IPO, Bloomberg reported. The IPO could raise $200 million to $300 million. 

Zeekr Intelligent Technology Holding, the Chinese EV brand under China’s Geely Holding, is primed and ready to go public. The company set its IPO terms: 17.5 million shares priced between $18 and $21 a share. The New York Stock Exchange approved its listing. Stay tuned!

Notable reads and other tidbits

ADAS

Mobileye CTO Shai Shalev-Shwartz made an interesting comment on social media site X when asked if he thought lidar would be a necessary part of so-called L3+ systems to meet regulatory standards. He wrote: “Currently, cameras are not sufficient for L3, and it is very likely that regulation will require lidars. Sometime in the future, it is reasonable to assume that cameras and radars will be sufficient.”

Electric vehicles, charging & batteries

TC reporter Sean O’Kane interviewed the founders of Bloom about their plans to reinvent how e-bikes are made in the United States. Readers: What do you think?

Speaking of micromobility, Estonian company Bolt Technologies is making moves to launch scooter operations in the U.S. market

Earnings

There were a bunch of earnings this week. Here are a few highlights:

Luminar shared in its Q1 earnings report that Tesla is now the lidar maker’s top customer. Tesla accounted for “more than 10%” of Luminar’s revenue in the first quarter of 2024, or a little more than $2 million.

Lucid Motors said in its Q1 report that senior vice president of digital Mike Bell — a longtime Apple and Intel exec — has resigned from his position. Bell will serve in an advisory role through mid-August to help “transition” his duties at the company.

Rivian reported a $1.45 billion loss in the first quarter, showing that its recent company-wide cost-cutting measures have a ways to go before it can approach profitability. Founder and CEO RJ Scaringe spent the bulk of the earnings call talking about their progress. 

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi disclosed during the company’s Q1 earnings call that membership fees from its Uber One program are now “in excess of $1 billion” run rate. The company is now planning to deliver even more perks to members in its pursuit of a “sticky” app.

This week’s wheels

What is “This week’s wheels”? It’s a chance to learn about the different transportation products we’re testing, whether it’s an electric or hybrid car, an e-bike or even a ride in an autonomous vehicle. Keep an eye out to learn about my time behind the wheel of an absolutely massive all-electric Mercedes-Benz eSprinter and the 2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

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