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Motional, Hyundai's AV Venture, 550 Lays Off

Around 550 employees have been laid off at Motional, the autonomous vehicle company, as it pauses commercial operations
May 13, 2024

Motional, the autonomous vehicle company born out of a joint venture between Hyundai and Aptiv, has laid off approximately 550 employees. The layoffs come as the company undergoes a significant restructuring, including a pause in commercial operations and a delay in the launch of its robotaxi service.

The layoffs were revealed through WARN notice filings and confirmed by sources within the company. According to a TechCrunch report, the restructuring has affected every team within Motional, with high-level departures including the company's Chief Operating Officer, Abe Ghabra.

The technical program management team, responsible for autonomy and cloud operations, has been significantly reduced from 44 to 19 employees. Additionally, Motional's Milpitas office in Silicon Valley, which housed a division of the company's compute design team, is being wound down. The high-performance computing team, along with its director, David Fermor, has also been eliminated. Similarly, Motional's Venice office in Los Angeles, which served as an operations and commercial hub for Uber Eats, is being shut down.

The layoffs also affected the team behind Motional's remote vehicle assistance platform, as well as employees in testing, product, safety, cybersecurity, and legal teams. The company stated that all functions of the business received staff cuts.

Approximately 145 of the laid-off employees were based in Pittsburgh, with most of them working on software. Motional also conducted testing in California, Nevada, and Massachusetts, but WARN notices for those states have not yet been filed.

Despite the layoffs, certain teams, such as autonomy and infrastructure software, were relatively unaffected. However, the company now faces the challenge of operating with a smaller workforce while focusing on improving its core technology and business model.

Motional's recent restructuring comes amid Hyundai's increased investment in the company. Last week, Hyundai injected $475 million into Motional and spent an additional $448 million to acquire an 11% stake from Aptiv. This move followed a bridge loan Motional secured in March to buy time after laying off 5% of its staff.

Affected employees will receive their regular paychecks for 10 weeks, with their last day scheduled for July 6. The severance package also includes "garden leave," where employees will be paid every two weeks. Additionally, employees will receive a 28.5% bonus on top of the 20% bonus they received in March.

Employees with vested equity will not be paid out immediately, as Motional is awaiting a valuation to determine the new share price.

The layoffs at Motional underscore the challenges facing the autonomous vehicle industry, as companies grapple with the high costs of development and the long road to profitability.

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