Hyundai-backed autonomous company Motional cuts 5% of workforce

Motional, the autonomous vehicle company born out of a joint venture between Hyundai Motor Group and Aptiv, told employees Wednesday it will cut about 5% of its workforce, TechCrunch has learned.

The cuts, which translate to fewer than 70 people, mostly affect administrative roles and some employees working in Boston, one of several cities where it tests autonomous vehicles, according to sources who asked to not be named because they are not authorized to speak for Motional. The autonomous vehicle company last had layoffs in December 2022, when it cut about 10% of its workforce. That earlier layoff mostly affected the company's operations in Pittsburgh, where it tests AVs.

Motional operates an autonomous vehicle taxi service in Las Vegas (still with human safety operators behind the wheel) on Uber, Lyft and Via platforms. It also has an autonomous delivery pilot with Uber Eats in Santa Monica, California.

A Motional spokesperson confirmed the layoffs.

"Motional recently announced steps to reallocate resources to areas of the company that will directly enable long-term commercial success, including staff reductions that impacted less than 5% of employees working in non-technical roles," Motional said in an emailed statement. "We are continuing to hire critical talent needed to develop our technology and meet our commercial goals. We’re confident in our funding roadmap and are well positioned for the next phase of our commercialization. Our team is focused on scaling our driverless services, expanding Motional’s commercial partnerships, and furthering development on Motional’s next-generation robotaxi in collaboration with Kia."

The layoffs come one month after automotive supplier Aptiv — the other half of a $4 billion joint venture with Hyundai that created Motional — said it would no longer allocate capital toward the endeavor.

With Aptiv pulling out of future funding, Hyundai is left as the sole backer, unless Motional is able to court another company to fund its efforts. Motional is also exploring outside funding deals, according to one source. The company has previously said in internal meetings that it had enough runway to last through the end of Q1 2024.

Despite its financial woes, the company has continued to make some progress toward its goal of launching a robotaxi service using driverless Hyundai Ioniq 5 vehicles in 2024. In November, Hyundai Motor Group and Motional announced plans to co-develop production-ready versions of the all-electric Ioniq 5 robotaxi at the automaker’s new innovation center in Singapore, the Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Center Singapore (HMGICS). A production-ready autonomous vehicle, equipped with the kind of redundancies designed for safe operations without a human driver, is a critical milestone required for commercial operations.

During CES 2024, the company announced plans to work with Kia on a next-generation vehicle that will enter commercial operations later this decade. The initial development process will begin this year, according to the company.