General Motors‘ Cruise subsidiary is looking to poach some autonomous vehicle engineering talent from one of its main rivals, Zoox Inc.
Zoox, based in Foster City, California, is reportedly in talks with Amazon Inc. over a potential sale, with the self-driving car company currently hurting for cash. Zoox laid off 120 contract workers in March and followed it up with another 1,000 job cuts a week later. Analysts believe Zoox will sell for about $1.1 billion – more than 60 percent less than its previous valuation of $3.2 billion.
Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt sent an email to several current Zoox employees this week informing them the company may be interested in hiring them, saying “Cruise is willing to recognize the full value of the rewards you’ve earned at Zoox – something that is very unlikely to occur via an acquisition in this environment.”
Cruise confirmed it was actively looking to poach Zoox engineers in a statement made to Reuters this week, as well, with Cruise communications lead Kristine Boyden saying the company is “going after the best talent in the world, wherever they may be working and whatever else they might be working on.”
Autonomous vehicle engineering talent is currently a hot commodity and can be hard to come by given the relative newness of the industry. According to Reuters, Cruise hired on a number of engineers from self-driving truck company Starsky earlier this year, which had previously ceased operations.
Many self-driving car companies have come on hard times in recent months, as the technology requires a large amount of capital to develop and currently does not make any money. Some of the venture capital funding that helped establish such companies is also now beginning to dry up, with the advent of AVs taking longer to come about than many in the industry had previously predicted.
“It just doesn’t make sense to keep pouring hundreds of millions or billions of dollars into this effort when you’re not likely to ever see a return on it,” automotive industry analyst Sam Abuelsamid told Biz Journals this week.
Cruise hasn’t been shielded from the hard times that have befallen the self-driving car industry, either. It laid off 8% of its workforce in May in an effort to “rightsize” the company, with spokesman Ray Wert saying the job cuts were reflective of the company “doubling down on engineering work and engineering talent.” The layoffs all fell outside of its core engineering teams, though they did include some staff that were developing Lidar technology.