Hyundai antes up $1B for AV startup Motional and Elon unplugs the Tesla Supercharger crew


Welcome again tTechCrunch Mobility — your central hub for information and insights on the way forward for transportation.

Before I bounce into the all of the information — and boy there was lots! — I’ve an vital replace for all of you pretty readers. TechCrunch Mobility is shifting to Thursdays! It would be the identical publication crammed with information and insights on the sector, however simply touchdown in your inboxes Thursday morning. Sign up right here without spending a dime — simply click on TechCrunch Mobility!

EV startup Fisker laid off extra staff to “protect money” as chapter inches ever nearer; ride-hailing firm Ola minimize about 180 jobs and ousted its chief govt, Hemant Bakshi, merely 4 months after appointing him to the submit; and lidar firm Luminar slashed its 700-person workforce by 20% as a part of a restructuring to undertake an “asset mild” enterprise mannequin.

Oh, after which there was Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who axed the automaker’s international Supercharger community crew. That perplexing resolution comes simply as non-Tesla EV drivers acquire entry to the community.

That’s to not say your entire transportation sector was surrounded by financial storm clouds. There had been brighter moments as nicely. Let’s go test it out!

Slightly chook

blinky cat bird green

In the fallout from Tesla’s nice Supercharger culling, we’ve spoken to a number of little birds, together with those that had been laid off and folk working at different automakers. As I discussed above, Elon Musk gutted Tesla’s international Supercharger group of about 500 individuals. Insiders at a number of completely different automakers — all of that are adopting Tesla’s charging tech — mentioned they didn’t see this coming. “Shocked” and “shocked” had been the most typical phrases I heard.

On the worker entrance, there was an absence of communication from human sources within the hours immediately following the mass layoff. Some advised me they and their fellow former co-workers had not acquired details about severance and that communication had stopped altogether. Just a few of these people had acquired severance emails by Friday. All of the individuals I communicated with had been nonetheless struggling to know why Musk would minimize the Supercharger crew — a company that’s elementary to Tesla and its EV gross sales. Others surmised solely Elon and perhaps the previous head of the Supercharger crew, Rebecca Tinucci, would ever know the reply.

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Deals!

money the station

It’s been a minute since we heard of an autonomous car startup elevating a considerable sum of money — or heck any cash in any respect. That all modified this week when Motional scored a necessary multi-million-dollar win, courtesy of Hyundai.

Hyundai’s whole dedication is $1 billion, however there are vital particulars. Here’s the way it breaks down. Hyundai invested $475 million immediately into Motional as a part of a broader deal that features shopping for out three way partnership companion Aptiv. Hyundai is spending one other $448 million to purchase 11% of Aptiv’s frequent fairness curiosity in Motional.

The fast backstory: Motional was fashioned in 2019 as a $4 billion three way partnership between Hyundai and Aptiv. Motional has spent the previous a number of years plugging away at its autonomous car tech, working towards a purpose of launching a robotaxi service utilizing driverless Hyundai Ioniq 5 autos in 2024. As Motional and Hyundai bought nearer — the businesses introduced plans in November to co-develop production-ready variations of the all-electric Ioniq 5 robotaxi — it appears Aptiv started to know its personal monetary limitations. By January, Aptiv chairman and CEO Kevin Clark flagged that the corporate would scale back its possession curiosity in Motional and cease allocating capital to the enterprise because of the excessive value of commercializing a robotaxi enterprise and the lengthy street forward to income.

The resolution, whereas not notably shocking to the business insiders I spoke to, nonetheless put Motional and Hyundai in a sticky spot. Would Hyundai step up? Would exterior traders step in? Hyundai answered the decision.

My query is will Motional, with the blessing of Hyundai, hunt down different traders? That will all come right down to how a lot capital Motional is burning by way of and whether or not it continues to chase the identical robotaxi objectives. If so, it appears the corporate will finally want extra capital.

Other offers that bought my consideration …

LiNova Energy, a California-based startup creating polymer cathode batteries, raised $15.8 million in a Series A funding spherical led by Catalus Capital, which was joined by Saft, a subsidiary of TotalEnergies, Chevron Technology Ventures and a syndicate of traders.

Rivian was awarded an eye-popping $827 million incentives package deal from the state of Illinois, funds that can be used to construct out manufacturing traces for its next-generation EV, the R2.

Viking Holdings, the posh cruise operator backed by non-public fairness agency TPG and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, raised $1.54 billion in its IPO.

X Shore, a Swedish electrical boat maker based in 2016, raised €8.5 million in new funding from a number of unnamed present backers, together with founder Konrad Bergström.

Notable reads and different tidbits

ADAS

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation into Ford’s hands-free driver-assistance system, BlueCruise, after it was discovered to be lively throughout two current crashes that killed a number of individuals.

The NHTSA made one other large transfer within the sector and finalized a brand new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard that may make computerized emergency braking, together with the power to detect and routinely brake for pedestrians, commonplace on all passenger vehicles and lightweight vans by September 2029. The company mentioned the security commonplace is predicted to considerably cut back rear-end and pedestrian crashes. Now, the NHTSA isn’t selecting the expertise automakers have to make use of. Plenty of laptop imaginative and prescient and lidar firms have reached out to me to notice the way it may very well be useful to their enterprise fashions.

Autonomous autos

TC contributor Tim Stevens takes us behind the scenes of the primary Autonomous Racing League occasion in Abu Dhabi that pitted a self-driving automobile in opposition to a Formula 1 driver. His take? Yes, there have been struggles; he additionally noticed numerous progress.

Electric autos, charging & batteries

Remember final yr when Henrik Fisker proudly debuted two prototypes designed to catapult his eponymous EV startup into the mainstream? TC reporter Sean O’Kane realized the engineering agency that helped develop these autos is suing Fisker for $13 million in damages. Read extra to study this lawsuit, plus a number of others.

This week’s wheels

Image Credits: Emme Hall

I turned the wheel over to TC contributor Emme Hall this week for a check drive of the brand new all-electric Acura ZDX Type S. You can learn your entire evaluation right here, plus I counsel you watch her video of the hands-free superior driver-assistance system within the car. For those that need a sneak peek earlier than committing to the longer learn, right here’s the gist.

Hall anticipated pleasure and delight. Instead, it was extra meh. Here’s one of many whys. The Type S weighs over 6,000 kilos. Even if the load is evenly distributed entrance to rear, that’s numerous heft to get round a flip. She favored the hefty steering, however there wasn’t a lot suggestions taking place.

“The torque is at all times there on nook exit and physique roll is saved in test, but I’m not feeling the delight,” she wrote, including that the 275/40 Continental Premium Contact 6 summer season tires on the Type S supplied up loads of grip, however the low-profile sidewall mixed with the more durable run-flat rubber compound meant that the journey was only a contact harsh.

Hall’s pursuit of an all-electric SUV that’s enjoyable by way of the twisties continues.



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