VW taps Rivian in $5B EV deal and the fight over Fisker’s assets

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The Week in Mobility: Cruise Cuts, VW Bets Big on Rivian, and the Bugatti Tourbillon’s Artful Tech

Welcome back to TechCrunch Mobility – your weekly guide to the latest news and insights shaping the future of transportation.

This week has been a whirlwind of activity, with major deals, unexpected mergers, and a glimpse into the luxurious future of automotive tech. We’re back to break down the most impactful developments – because even amidst summer’s heat, the world of transportation never sleeps.

A Little Bird Told Us…

Cruise has been making headlines again, this time with a modest round of employee cuts, reportedly affecting 35 individuals. While Cruise has confirmed the cuts, they emphasize that it’s a matter of routine role eliminations, not layoffs; a significant distinction given the company’s recent 24% workforce reduction last December. These smaller cuts, though seemingly minor, point to a continued period of adjustment for Cruise as it navigates the complex world of autonomous vehicle deployment.

Beyond the layoffs, Cruise has also publicly announced a reorganization aimed at solidifying its safety operations.
Chief Safety Officer Steve Kenner will oversee these functions, while the company also integrates its Customer Success and Remote Assistance teams. This reorganization represents Cruise’s ongoing investment in safety, a critical aspect as the company prepares for a potential return to San Francisco streets.

Deals, Deals, Deals!

The mobility landscape has been buzzing with deal-making this week, with several major announcements worth unpacking:

  • VW Invests in Rivian: Perhaps the most surprising news is Volkswagen Group’s decision to invest up to $5 billion in Rivian, acquiring access to the EV company’s electrical architecture and software platform. This unexpected partnership, a "whopper of a deal," signals a shift in the EV market, with major players sharing resources and expertise to drive innovation and reduce costs.

  • Aether Fuels Raises $30.4 Million: Aether Fuels, a startup focused on producing e-fuels for aviation and maritime shipping, has secured $30.4 million in funding. This investment underscores the growing interest in sustainable alternatives to traditional fossil fuels, particularly in industries with significant environmental impact.

  • Bitsensing Secures $25 Million: Bitsensing, a South Korean startup developing 4D imaging radar technology, has raised $25 million in a Series B funding round. This advanced radar technology has the potential to revolutionize autonomous driving, enabling more precise perception and navigation capabilities.

  • Fetcherr Lands $90 Million: Fetcherr, a startup providing infrastructure for dynamic pricing systems used by airlines, has secured $90 million in Series B funding. Dynamic pricing, a common practice in the travel industry, leverages algorithms and data to dynamically adjust prices based on factors like demand, time, and other variables. Fetcherr’s success implies a continued commitment to optimizing pricing strategies for the airline industry.

  • Getir Restructures Operations: Getir, the food delivery startup, undergoes a significant restructuring with Mubadala Investment Company investing $250 million and taking majority control of its Turkish grocery operations. This move reflects the evolving dynamics within the food delivery market, where consolidation and strategic partnerships are becoming increasingly important.

  • SkyCell Raises $116 Million: SkyCell, a Swiss startup specializing in pharmaceuticals transportation using advanced hardware and software, has secured $116 million in Series D funding. This investment highlights the growing demand for secure and efficient transportation solutions for sensitive medical products.

  • Boeing’s Wisk Aero Acquires Verocel: Wisk Aero, a subsidiary of Boeing focused on autonomous air taxis, has acquired Verocel, a software verification and validation company with 25 years of experience in the aerospace industry. This acquisition strengthens Wisk Aero’s commitment to robust software safety for its self-flying eVTOL aircraft.

Notable Reads and Tidbits:

Autonomous Vehicles:

  • Cruise‘s return to San Francisco seems increasingly likely, fueled by the settling of a fine with California regulators and the appointment of Marc Whitten, a veteran of the video game industry, as its new CEO.

  • Project 3 Mobility, the Croatian autonomous vehicle startup spun out of Rimac Group, has rebranded as Verne, highlighting its focus on urban mobility. This company plans to launch an electric autonomous two-seater vehicle by 2026, showcasing its ambition to revolutionize personal transportation in urban environments.

  • Uber Freight and Aurora Innovation have entered into a multi-year collaboration agreement, making Aurora’s autonomous driving technology accessible to the Uber Freight network until 2030. This partnership brings together two prominent players in the transportation sector, pushing the boundaries of autonomous trucking.

  • Waymo has opened up its San Francisco robotaxi service to everyone, removing the waitlist and making its autonomous rides accessible to the public. This move further advances the accessibility of autonomous technology and demonstrates Waymo’s confidence in its service.

Electric Vehicles, Charging, and Batteries:

  • Fisker’s bankruptcy proceedings continue to unfold, revealing a "potential financial distress" dating back to August 2023. A legal battle over Fisker’s assets has intensified, with Heights Capital Management, Fisker’s largest secured lender, at the center of the dispute.

Software, Apps, and In-car Tech:

  • CDK, a provider of customer management software for car dealerships, is still recovering from back-to-back cyberattacks, causing disruptions for thousands of dealerships across the US.

  • Stellantis’ AI chief, Berta Rodriguez-Hervas, has left the automaker, highlighting the ongoing challenges in retaining top talent in the rapidly evolving automotive technology space.

This Week’s Wheels: The Bugatti Tourbillon

This week, TechCrunch Mobility delved into the world of luxury, encountering the Bugatti Tourbillon, the successor to the Bugatti Chiron and a true testament to the convergence of technological advancement and exquisite craftsmanship.

The Bugatti Tourbillon is a marvel of engineering, boasting a naturally aspirated V16 engine combined with an electric powertrain, offering a unique blend of power and sustainability. However, what truly sets this hypercar apart is its interior. Forget about massive touchscreens and digital interfaces. The Bugatti Tourbillon embraces a more analog approach, featuring a Swiss-made instrument cluster that serves as the focal point of the driver experience.

This cluster, crafted with sapphire and ruby gemstones, represents a reimagination of luxury in a digital age. It emphasizes the timeless allure of meticulous craftsmanship and the artistic potential of technology. The Bugatti Tourbillon is not just a vehicle; it’s a statement piece, a masterpiece of engineering and artistry that pushes the boundaries of luxury automotive design.

As the week draws to a close, it’s clear that the mobility sector continues to move forward at a rapid pace. From billion-dollar investments to groundbreaking partnerships and artistic expressions of future transportation, the future of mobility remains dynamic and exciting. Stay tuned for more news and insights as we continue to explore the ever-evolving world of transportation.

Article Reference

Emily Johnson
Emily Johnson
Emily Johnson is a tech enthusiast with over a decade of experience in the industry. She has a knack for identifying the next big thing in startups and has reviewed countless internet products. Emily's deep insights and thorough analysis make her a trusted voice in the tech news arena.