Advertisement

Lyft layoffs arrive, GM kills off the Chevy Bolt and Tesla makes a 'deep fake' defense

The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive the full edition of the newsletter every weekend in your inbox. Subscribe for free. 

Welcome back to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future means of moving people and packages from Point A to Point B. 

We knew it was coming, and welp it did. I'm talking about Lyft and the layoffs that newly appointed CEO David Risher said would occur this week.

Here's the breakdown: 26% of its workforce, or about 1,072 people, will be cut as part of a restructuring plan aimed at rebuilding its core ride-hailing product and boosting profits. The company is also scaling back hiring plans and will eliminate 250 open job positions.

Risher previously said the restructuring would be part of Lyft’s plan to “better meeting the needs of riders and drivers.”

That doesn't sound great for other programs at Lyft; the bike-share service seems to be in a particularly precarious position. However, we still don't know exactly where these cuts will occur. I've been told that they will be across the company.

We will hopefully find out more at 1:30 pm PT May 4 when Lyft holds its first-quarter earnings call with analysts.


Want to reach out with a tip, comment or complaint? Email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com. You also can send a direct message to @kirstenkorosec.

Reminder that you can drop us a note at tips@techcrunch.comIf you prefer to remain anonymousclick here to contact us, which includes SecureDrop (instructions here) and various encrypted messaging apps.

Micromobbin'

the station scooter1a
the station scooter1a

Aventon launched a foldable fat tire e-bike, the Aventon Sinch.2. Aside from the obviously appealing features of being foldable and having fat tires, the Sinch.2 also comes with a new torque sensor that gives users responsive pedal assist. Meaning it can tell how much power to give based on how hard the user is pedaling.

Cake announced the full production launch of their new electric utility platform, the Cake Bukk. Bukk is designed to enable a range of configurations for electric utility vehicles used for delivery, maintenance and agriculture. The company also dropped their updated Jante motor system, which brings 60 mph speeds and 500 Nm of torque to upcoming models.

Gogoro launched its Smartscooters and battery swapping in the Philippines, following an initial pilot.

Garmin has built a vehicle detection system for e-bikes that uses the bike's battery to power. It costs about $300, attaches to your seat post and delivers audible alerts to your smartphone.

Heybike has officially unveiled its new Ranger S e-bike, a foldable step-thru frame that's designed to be robust enough to handle any terrain. And at $1,500, it's also seriously affordable.

Joco is partnering with Grubhub to give 500 NYC delivery workers free access to its network of docked e-bikes.

Lyft saw more layoffs this week, and what I'd like to know is, how is this going to affect the company's micromobility offerings? If you have any tips, send them to rebecca.techcrunch@gmail.com.

The new Mercedes Benz EQS 580 4Matic City Edition comes with *checks notes* a free one-year Unagi scooter subscription for owners in SoCal.

Is NYC becoming a biking city? The NYC DOT is on track to install a record number of protected bike lanes this year, to harden more than 10 miles of existing lanes and to use sturdier materials in the new lanes. All of these moves, plus a public awareness campaign on the safe operation of e-bikes, come as cycling in the Big Apple is at an all-time high.

Taiwanese company OKGO (not to be confused with my middle school pop punk band obsession OK Go) revealed a "smart" e-bike that crams tech into a carbon fiber frame. Tech like fingerprint-scanning, voice command and radar that alerts riders of rear-approaching vehicles. The prototype is mainly a demo so the company can sell the tech to other companies.

Rad Power Bikes has partnered with battery materials startup Redwood Materials to launch an e-bike battery recycling program. Consumers looking to recycle their e-bike batteries can participate in the program by bringing their battery to any U.S. Rad Retail location.

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station
money the station

VinFast's ambitious plan to grab EV market share in the United States with a bevy of electric SUVs and crossovers — a feat for any automaker, let alone a newcomer from Vietnam — has captured my attention for awhile now. I have no idea how it's going to shake out, although if recent reviews of the EVs offer any insight, I would say it's not going to be smooth.

The company does have one trick — or more accurately 2.5 billion — up its EV sleeves that will certainly give it a boost. VinFast announced it will receive a $2.5 billion injection of capital. About $1 billion is coming from billionaire Pham Nhat Vuong, who founded VinFast’s parent company Vingroup. Another $500 million will come from Vingroup, the country’s largest conglomerate. The parent company has also agreed to loan VinFast an additional $1 billion with a maturity of up to five years.

Other deals that got my attention ...

Bosch will acquire the assets of U.S. chipmaker TSI Semiconductors to expand its semiconductor business with silicon carbide chips. Following the acquisition, Bosch plans to invest $1.5 billion over the next few years to upgrade TSI Semiconductors' manufacturing facilities in Roseville, California.

CorrActions, an Israeli startup that developed a driver monitoring system that can understand a driver’s cognitive state, raised a strategic investment from Volvo Cars Tech Fund. The target for this round is $6 million, according to the company.

Cyclic Materials, a circular supply chain company focused on recycling rare earth elements, raised $27 million in a Series A funding led by BMW i Ventures and Energy Impact Partners. Fifth Wall, Bioindustrial Innovation Canada (BIC) and existing investor Planetary Technologies also participated. The financing will be used to establish a hub and spoke network for the company's commercial scale operations, according to BMW i Ventures.

Daimler Truck North America, NextEra Energy Resources and BlackRock Alternatives announced a $650 million joint venture called Greenlane that aims to design, develop, install and operate a U.S. nationwide high performance public charging and hydrogen fueling network for medium and heavy duty electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The first site will be in SoCal.

Luup, the Japanese shared micromobility startup, raised $30 million (4.5 billion yen) in a Series D financing round led by Spiral Capital. Existing investors ANRI, SMBC Venture Capital and Mori Trust and new investors including 31 Ventures, Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corporation also participated. Luup has now amassed a total of $68 million in equity, debt and asset financing to date.

PreAct Technologies, a near-field lidar company, raised $20 million in a Series B funding round led by I Squared Capital. Previous investors State Farm Ventures, Luminate and Traylor Capital also participated. PreAct, which acquired earlier this year computer vision and gesture recognition company Gestoos, also announced it has established its new European headquarters in Barcelona, Spain.

Virta, an EV charging startup, raised €85 million ($94.6 million), money that will be used to grow charging transactions by more than fivefold in APAC and Europe by 2025. Virta said it plans to expand into Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam in the next 24 months.

Notable reads and other tidbits

ADAS

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been tentatively ordered to testify under oath in a lawsuit that blames Autopilot for a fatal crash in 2018. Plaintiff attorneys want to question Musk about recordings of him talking about the capabilities of Autopilot. His lawyers offered up an odd defense in their opposition to the request. They claim that Musk can’t recall the details of statements plaintiffs want to question him on, and that he is often the subject of “deepfake” videos. One of the recordings that plaintiffs are interested in is high-profile tech journalist Kara Swisher's very real interview of Musk in front of a packed audience of real people in 2016.

Autonomous vehicles

Aurora has navigated a number of obstacles on the road to commercial self-driving trucks. Contributor Tim Stevens interviews CEO and co-founder Chris Urmson about the past, present and what future challenges, including regulations, remain.

Cruise continues to ramp up operations. Its fleet of robotaxis are now operating 24 hours a day throughout all of San Francisco, but only employees can access the expanded hours and service area for now. Like its previous rollouts, Cruise will first make this newly expanded service available to employees before opening it up to its so-called “power users” and then the general public.

May Mobility is launching an on-demand public transit service using AVs in Arizona in the retirement community of Sun City. Via, the transit tech company, is a partner in the venture and will provide its software to introduce dynamically routed, shared AVs.

The Uber ATG safety driver who was involved in the first fatality connected to an autonomous vehicle will be tried in June on a negligent homicide charge. Rafaela Vasquez has pleaded not guilty to the charge. The March 2018 crash killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg as she walked a bicycle outside the lines of a crosswalk in Tempe, Arizona.

Electric vehicles, charging & batteries

Is it me or is everyone announcing plans to build new battery factories. This week, Hyundai Motor Group and GM made separate announcements about plans to build electric vehicle battery plants in the U.S. in partnership with South Korean battery manufacturing firms. Hyundai will set up a $5 billion battery cell production joint venture in the U.S. with SK On. GM will partner with Samsung SDI to jointly invest $3 billion in an EV battery plant.

Faraday Future — yeah, remember that company? — said it expects to receive a second 180-day extension to meet Nasdaq's $1 minimum bid price requirement for 10 consecutive trading days if it continues to meet the continued listing requirement for market value of publicly held shares.

GM said it will stop producing its two top-selling EVs, the Chevy Bolt and its larger sibling, the Bolt EUV, by the end of 2023. Chair and CEO Mary Barra told investors during the company’s earnings call that its Orion Michigan factory, which currently assembles the Bolt, will be retooled for electric truck production. That also means the Chevy Bolt AV, the autonomous vehicle version used by Cruise, will not be produced either.

Honda plans to release its first e:Architecture-based electric vehicle in North America in 2025, a year earlier than the Japanese automaker originally said it would introduce EVs based on its in-house vehicle platform.

Lucid Group has started testing pre-production versions of its all-electric Gravity SUV on public roads in the United States.

Tesla has started producing a version of the Model Y at its Shanghai factory that will be exported and sold in Canada. Speaking of China, certain non-Tesla vehicles in the country can now charge at selected Superchargers.

Future of flight

Joby Aviation secured a $55 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense, a deal that will allow the company to put its aircraft into customers’ hands and start generating revenue before it has achieved Federal Aviation Administration certification. Separately, Joby also signed a new long-term agreement with Toyota to supply key components for Joby’s eVTOL aircraft.

In-car tech

GM created its own open-source software protocol called uProtocol to speed up development and notably, it wants other automakers to use it. GM also announced plans to join the open source software organization, Eclipse Foundation.

Mercedes-Benz has found another way to generate revenue via software updates. The company is giving owners of the new Mercedes-Benz EQE and EQS the option to unlock additional performance in their cars through a software update called "Acceleration Increase," which can be accessed via its Mercedes Me Connect Store online. The cost is $60 a month or $2,950 for the lifetime of the vehicle.

People

GM nominated Vice Admiral Jan Tighe, former U.S. Navy deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare and director of naval intelligence, for a board seat. Tighe will stand for election at the company's annual shareholder meeting on June 20, 2023.

Revel has hired Robert Familiar, formerly of Stu Loeser & Co. Strategy, as senior communications manager and Jake Potent, formerly of Constantinople & Vallone Consulting, as director of policy and governmental relations.

Surf Air Mobility named Tyrone D. Bland to its board of directors. Bland currently serves as the head of government Affairs for Creative Artists Agency.

Vroom, the online used car marketplace, is restructuring and laying off more people. This time (the company cut staff in January too) 120 employees were laid off, per a regulatory filing.