IIn an all-hands video conference with Cruise staff Monday afternoon, General Motors CEO Mary Barra attempted to re-energize staff at Cruise, GM’s cutting-edge autonomous vehicle subsidiary, after the resignation of its CEO and product managers after several weeks. huge setbacks for the company.
“This is an opportunity to begin our rebuilding,” she said, according to audio of the call obtained by Forbes. “And I think first and foremost, I want you to know that you have my support and the support of GM.”
Other senior executives and even a Cruise board member took turns during the meeting, which lasted about 30 minutes. They all praised Cruise’s people and mission and seemingly expressed no doubt about the company’s near-term future despite many recent difficulties.
The company’s second co-founder, Dan Kan, announced his resignation hours before the meeting began; Cruise’s other co-founder and now former CEO, Kyle Vogt, announced he was leaving the company late yesterday.
“You can code in many places in Silicon Valley without life or death consequences and I have deep respect for those of you working on this problem,” said board member Jon McNeill from Cruise and GM, during the call. Barra also noted that GM is not naming an interim CEO “at this time,” and neither she nor other company executives took questions from the assembled Cruise staff.
The GM CEO stressed that she and GM executives “believe” in what she calls the “mission” of autonomous vehicles, despite the fact that Cruise has faced serious obstacles in recent weeks. Over the past four years, Cruise has generated barely a modicum of revenue, resulting in collective losses of around $6 billion.
Earlier this month, during another all-hands call, Vogt told staff that there would be job cuts coming and that it “will take a while for people to understand that we are serious “.
More than a year ago, Ford shuttered Argo, its former Cruise rival, after losing billions of dollars in the venture. Waymo, a subsidiary of Alphabet, remains the world leader in autonomous vehicles and its robotaxis continue to operate in California and Arizona.
The exodus of Cruise co-founders comes several weeks after a critical accident on October 2 in San Francisco, the company’s hometown, that left a pedestrian in critical condition for weeks. In that incident, a woman was crossing a San Francisco street when she was struck by a human driver and thrown into the path of an oncoming Cruise autonomous vehicle, which dragged her about 20 feet.
Several weeks ago, on October 24, the California DMV revoked Cruise’s operating license, and two days later the company pulled all of its remaining AVs from its operating cities in Arizona and Texas. As recently as early October, then-CEO Vogt said on the Big Tech podcast that the company was poised for exponential growth in the coming years, reaching thousands of AVs operational next year, “and it will continue to grow 10 times each year for the foreseeable future.” .” At that time, Vogt imagined a near future in which the company would first operate a robotaxi service, soon to be followed by “personal vehicle ownership” of autonomous utility vehicles.
Previously, Cruise had planned to deploy its fleet in a total of 10 cities, including Nashville and San Diego by the end of 2023. Near the end of the call, Mohamed Elshenawy, Cruise’s new president and chief technology officer , also told staff. something he said he’d never shared with anyone in the company before: that when he was 10, his cousin “and best friend” was killed by a hit-and-run driver .
This poignant anecdote seems to illustrate his own personal motivation to achieve safe and ubiquitous autonomous driving.
“I wanted to remind us all why we are here,” he said. “It’s not the easiest place to work. This is not the easiest mission to accomplish. But the mission itself is incredible. I know that in difficult times it is difficult to remember this. But personally, it’s what keeps me grounded. It’s a mission we can all truly be proud of. Businesses aren’t defined by what happens in good times, they’re defined by times like this. I know we can rise to the occasion when we are tested. Cruise is currently being tested.
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