Waymo gets a crucial robotaxi permit, Fisker lays off more employees and the Apple car disappears

Image credits: TechCrunch

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I was in Los Angeles earlier this week interviewing Waymo co-CEO Tekedra Mawakana on stage at our StrictlyVC LA event. You can watch the entire interview here, where she gives her thoughts on the Apple Car project, the company’s “community tour” in Los Angeles, whether Waymo has learned (or changed) anything in the wake of the Cruise debacle, and whether it is determined to remain in the country. San Francisco, even as the vandalism of its robotaxis continues.

The next morning (and by total coincidence), the California Public Utilities Commission approved Waymo’s application to operate a commercial robotaxi service in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Peninsula and on San Francisco’s freeways. The approval removes the final barrier for the Alphabet company to charge for rides in these expanded areas. Importantly, it opens new ground for Waymo in one of the country’s largest cities and opens up a route to San Francisco International Airport, which is south of the city.

This week’s news also includes Ford by giving its EV owners access to Tesla Superchargers, the Securities and Exchange Commission to upload Lordstown Motors with misleading investors, Toyota practically people are paying to buy the hydrogen fuel cell powered Mirai and more!

Let’s go!

A little bird

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EV upstart Fisker has been dealing with a lot lately: underperforming its own sales goals, dealing with quality and customer service issues, and switching from a direct sales model to trying to sign up dealer partners.

This past week, the company announced that as part of that transition it would be cutting 15% of its workforce and would need more money to survive. Reuters reported on Friday that it is in talks with Nissan to collaborate on an electric pickup, a move that could save the startup.

a some small birds told us that these talks have been going on for more than a year, and that it wasn’t the only Japanese automaker to have spoken to Fisker about a possible collaboration; Fisker also held discussions with Mazda. But Nissan is the last one standing, and its continued interest comes at a crucial time for the struggling startup.

Do you have a tip for us? E-mail Kirsten Korosec at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com or Sean O’Kane sean.okane@techcrunch.com. If you prefer to remain anonymous, Click here to contact usincluding SecureDrop (instructions here) and several encrypted messaging apps.

Offer of the week

“/>money the station

North Star has a little more breathing room now that the Swedish EV company – which is owned by China’s Geely Holdings – has received a $950 million loan from a dozen banks.

Why does it matter? These are crucial funds needed to advance Polestar’s EV plans following Volvo’s decision to withdraw financial support from the electric car maker. The company had about $770 million in cash at the end of 2023, according to regulatory data.

However, the financing does not solve all of Polestar’s financial problems. Even with this new capital injection, the company says it will continue to cut costs and pursue efficiencies, including layoffs. Polestar, which has cut 10% of jobs since mid-2023, says it wants to cut another 15% this year. The company previously announced 15% job cuts, which will affect approximately 450 people.

Other deals that caught my attention…

Achieve energy, the startup developing electric-powered trailers for commercial trucking, has raised $23.5 million in a funding round led by Trousdale Ventures, with participation from UP.Partners, R7 and Yamaha Motor Ventures. Range has raised $31.5 million to date.

Notable reading and other tidbits


Autonomous vehicles

Bye Apple car; we never knew you. Yes, that’s right, Apple has ended plans to build and sell an autonomous electric car. Don’t worry, months from now we’ll definitely be treated to rumors that it’s back after all. ;D

News reporter Sean O’Kane has learned that Apple will likely cut hundreds of employees from the team and that all work on the project has been halted. Some will switch to Apple’s generative AI projects, according to Bloomberg, which first reported the project’s cancellation. Others are given 90 days to find a new position within the company or they will be fired. About 1,400 employees still worked on the car project, according to an employee who was allowed to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to talk about his work. Footnote: here’s a timeline of the decade-long project.

GM is building away its custom Cruise Origin robotaxis in a defunct factory in Michigan.

Motional told employees it will cut about 5% of its workforce (fewer than 70 people), TechCrunch has learned. The cuts mainly affect administrative positions and some employees who work in Boston, one of several cities testing autonomous vehicles. The other very important detail from sources is that the company needs to secure more financing. That means Hyundai will either have to foot the entire bill for the joint venture it once shared with Aptiv or find another partner.

Electric vehicles, batteries and charging

Xiaomi showed its first electric car, the SU7, at Mobile World Congress.

Technology in the car

Amazon stopped selling the Ring car camera.

This week’s wheels

“/>An autonomous Waymo vehicle drives down a tree-lined street in Santa Monica.

Image credits: Allen J. Schaben/Getty Images

This week I didn’t drive; I was driving a car without a driver Waymo robotaxi. I’ve taken countless rides on the Waymo robotaxis, but never one in Los Angeles. This trip provided an interesting example of how this robotaxis deals with unexpected blockages.

Moments after entering the Waymo, the vehicle was approaching a stop sign when it encountered a minor collision between two human-driven cars. Funnily enough, there was another driverless Waymo right in front of me. A postal worker, who was also stuck, ended up backing into a turning lane and making a U-turn.

My driverless car stalled and I started to wonder if it would ever move. Soon a message appeared on the touchscreen stating that “our team is working to get you moving.” Moments later, the vehicle reversed a few meters and made the same maneuver as the postman. This was likely an incident where remote guidance was provided. The traffic jam added about two minutes to my ride.

We will post a video of the ride soon!

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