General Motors’ self-driving car unit Cruise automation told staff on Thursday it has decided to lay off workers, the recent start-up in the nascent industry to slash jobs due to coronavirus crisis.
Cruise officials acknowledged they were cutting jobs, but refused to confirm the number. According to an internal email partially read to Reuters, about 8% of the staff would be cut, which amounts to over 140 employees.
The outbreak has caused funding to slow down in the autonomous driving industry. That is only the recent challenge in a sector whose promise of large-scale presentations of so-called robotaxis has been pushed out by many years.
“In this time of great change, we’re fortunate to have a crystal clear mission and billions in the bank. The actions we took today show us doubling down on our engineering work and engineering talent,” Cruise spokesperson Milin Mehta informed Reuters.
The cuts at Cruise, which had 1,800 full-time workers, come just a week after GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra said GM’s commitment to Cruise was “unwavering” and it was developing the business.
“Cruise is well capitalized,” she informed analysts on a May 6 conference call after the automaker posted stronger-than-expected first-quarter profit. “We have and will continue to grow our team by recruiting and retaining the very best engineering and leadership talent.”
The email noted that the layoffs at Cruise include staff at an engineering team in Pasadena, California, that works on Lidar, a sensor technology that utilizes pulsed laser light to sense objects, same as the way radar uses radio waves. The email was sent by Cruise CEO Dan Ammann on Thursday.
Lidar start-ups had seen a significant growth when self-driving car tech drew billions of dollars in investments.
The cuts at Cruise echo struggles felt elsewhere in the industry.
Starsky Robotics, a start-up focused on automating long-haul freight delivery, shut down in mid-March due to lack of funding. Zoox, a self-driving tech firm based in Silicon Valley, has laid off staff during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
About 1,473,415 people in the US have been confirmed as being infected with the coronavirus. The virus has killed 88,237 people in the country.