By on May 15, 2020

Cruise, the self-driving arm of General Motors, is cutting roughly 8 percent its full-time staff as coronavirus lockdowns mar the economy and companies walk back development programs. You might have noticed the hype surrounding autonomous cars started dying down even before 2020 became the most miserable year in recent memory.

That made them prime candidates for cost-saving cuts. Health concerns have likewise made autonomous concepts like “robotaxis,” where occupants are confined together in small, self-driving shuttles, far less appetizing. Cruise actually showed off a six-passenger AV it developed and built back in January. Interested in paying to ride face to face with complete strangers?

We didn’t think so. 

GM cut about 150 people from its autonomous division on Thursday, representing roughly 8 percent of Cruise’s entire workforce. According to Bloomberg, an internal memo from Cruise CEO Dan Ammann indicated that GM will offer affected staff some financial support to help them transition, plus health-care coverage through the end of the year.

“In this time of great change, we’re fortunate to have a crystal-clear mission and billions of dollars in the bank,” Cruise spokesman Ray Wert said in a statement. “The actions we took today reflect us doubling down on engineering work and engineering talent.”

Most of the cuts are said to related to business strategy, recruiting, and design. However, some of the cut staff did belong to development teams. Though this is hardly indicative of GM’s autonomous ambitions being in a worse place than its counterparts. Self-driving programs are struggling around the globe, resulting in layoffs at firms like Velodyne and Zoox.

Long-term, we expect to see the industry scale back on autonomous programs as automakers shift to prioritize core businesses. Totally abandoning AV projects seems like a stretch at this juncture, however. The industry has too much money wrapped up in their success and is presumed to want to continue encouraging their evolution. Still, new investments are bound to become less frequent (and much smaller) than they were in the past.

Cruise has idled its test fleet in San Francisco since March, complying with the government-imposed lockdown, and had a little over $2 billion in the bank at the start of this year. Unfortunately, it burns through about half that every 12 months and GM is going to be extra worried about overhead until at least 2022. More cuts seem likely but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Cruise

[Images: General Motors]

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12 Comments on “GM Lays Off Cruise Employees...”


  • avatar
    Kendahl

    Interested in paying to ride face to face with complete strangers who display weapons and announce, “Give us you wallet and phone”? Not even after the pandemic passes.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Mobility” is DOA for every mfr, especially full autonomy. If they want to blame the collapse of their foolish investments on the virus, go ahead.

    The Truth About Autonomy is that:
    1. The technology is many years away from Level 4 or 5 capability.
    2. Lawyers will never allow a mfr to claim Level 4 or 5 autonomy and deploy it on public roads.
    3. Describing a ROI for autonomy investments is tortuous.
    4. Being chief of an autonomy business is a short-term gig.
    5. Any investment in autonomy should be written off as an expense.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      The only worthy autonomous driving is long haul trucking. If you can get 2 or 3 drivers to tag team each other driving shotgun while the others auto follow, you can save a lot of money and downtime. Just pay the driver 10 hrs a day driving and 14 hrs a day in the cab sleeping or doing paperwork.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    the only place this would even make sense would be road trains of trucks driving long stretches between metro regions, like going through a desert or across the plains. even then they would probably need their own lane and have at least 1 driver in the front of the train to monitor it.

    im thinking I40 from barstow to wherever, that kinda thing. it would save on labor costs and allow the trucks to ride in each others draft.

  • avatar

    Soon GM’s electric vehicles will be facing the same fate. One thing you can count on GM for is predictability. My favorite claim by GM this month is that they are going from selling 15,000+ EV Bolts a year to selling 1 million EV’s by 2025! My prediction is by 2025 they will be pulling out of the EV business altogether.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      GM will never produce the EV volume needed to be profitable, which means competing with Tesla.

      Just as GM and Ford ceded their minivan business to Chrysler/Dodge and the imports, they could do the same with EVs.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        If GM’s new battery tech can actually get below the $100 / kWh mark as their claiming, they could do it. But, knowing GM, they’d find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory somehow.

        I still say, watch out for Toyota on the EV front. If they can actually get that battery they’ve been filing patents for into mass production, they could be second behind Tesla. It’s a great battery, but mass production is a huge obstacle where a lot of great technology goes to die.

        • 0 avatar

          Toyota has great experience with the Prius. The Prius along with Tesla has been a big success. There was one GM sedan I really liked and that was the Malibu hybrid, which also got very good reviews. Of course, in the reign of Barra, it was cancelled. Nearly, a year later Barra axed the Blackwing CT6, which promised to be the best GM’s sedan ever. Just about every move Barra has made has soured me on GM. Let us not forget that GM had one of its worst showings ever in Consumer Reports last year. In 2018 Cadillac was actually ranked last. How can anyone call Barra a success? All she has really done is cut GM down as company designed for short-term profits. Even GM’s foray into EV technology is being done at the behest of Wall Street.

  • avatar
    Schurkey

    Fire ALL the employees, fold-up “Cruise” and the entire EV product line, and apologize to everyone for wasting a heap of corporate dollars + federal and perhaps state subsidies on a non-viable politically-correct bullshit excuse for a business.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Recommended: “Autonomy” movie (Car and Driver/Malcolm Gladwell) now available on Amazon Prime.

    Note that my recommendation to watch this movie does not imply my endorsement of any opinion, hairstyle or questionable styling decision depicted in the movie.

    (I apologize for the irony of posting this on an article relating to an automaker which has very little interest in actually pursuing next-gen technology – and yes I realize that something like 0.003% of GM vehicles sold in the U.S. in the past three years have been equipped with Super Cruise [based on “over 5 million hands-free miles” claim].)

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