GM autonomous cruise cuts jobs as pandemic hits industry

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(Reuters) – General Motors Co (GM.N), the autonomous car group Cruise, told staff Thursday that it had decided to fire workers, the latest start-up in the emerging industry to cut jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

FILE PHOTO: A Cruise autonomous car, owned by General Motors Corp, is seen outside the company’s headquarters in San Francisco where it performs most of its tests, in California, United States, on September 26, 2018 REUTERS / Heather Somerville / File photo

Cruise officials admitted that they were cutting jobs, but refused to confirm the number. According to an internal e-mail partially read to Reuters, about 8% of the workforce would be laid off, which represents more than 140 people.

The epidemic has resulted in the drying up of funding in the autonomous driving industry. This is just the latest challenge in a sector where the promise of large-scale deployments of so-called robotics has been pushed back for many years.

“In these times of great change, we are fortunate to have a crystal clear mission and billions in the bank. The steps we have taken today allow us to double our engineering and engineering skills, “Cruise spokesman Milin Mehta told Reuters.

The cuts at Cruise, which had 1,800 full-time employees, come just a week after GM CEO Mary Barra said the US automaker’s # 1 commitment to Cruise was “steadfast” and that he was growing the business.

“Cruise is well capitalized,” she told analysts on a May 6 conference call after GM posted higher-than-expected earnings in the first quarter. “We have and will continue to grow our team by recruiting and retaining the best engineering and leadership talent.”

The email says that the layoffs at Cruise include staff from a team of engineers in Pasadena, California, who are working on Lidar, a sensor technology that uses pulsed laser light to detect objects, similar to the how the radar uses radio waves. The email was sent Thursday by Cruise CEO Dan Ammann.

Lidar start-ups flourished when autonomous automotive technology attracted billions of dollars in investment.

The cuts at Cruise echo the pain felt elsewhere in the industry.

Starsky Robotics, a five-year-old San Francisco start-up that specializes in automating long-distance freight delivery, closed in mid-March due to a lack of funding. And Zoox, a stand-alone technology company based in Silicon Valley, also laid off staff during the pandemic.

Reports by Jane Lanhee Lee in Oakland and David Shepardson in Washington D.C. and Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, David Gregorio and Ben Klayman

Our standards:Principles of the Thomson Reuters Trust.

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