General Motors (GM) is expected to announce significant spending cuts on its self-driving unit Cruise this week, following a series of bad news for the subsidiary after an incident with one of its robotaxis last month.
On Wednesday, GM will outline how much it plans to cut spending on the self-driving arm, according to Financial Times, after a Cruise robotaxi hit and pinned a woman in San Francisco on October 2. Since the accident, the company has slowly been whittling back certain planned operations, including production plans and the mere scope of what cities the startup will operate in.
Currently, GM has invested a quarterly average of around $700 million, though how much it plans to cut Cruise’s operations is not yet clear. The automaker has spent billions of dollars on the startup self-driving company, last year spending $2.1 billion to buy out Softbank’s minority stake in the company. GM also had a long-term revenue target of about $80 billion by 2030, though the announcement is also expected to affect this outlook.
Part of Cruise’s pitch has been based on a goal of “zero crashes, zero emissions, zero congestion,” though it has said it is currently focused on rebuilding public trust.
GM recently said its “strategy is to relaunch in one city and prove our performance there, before expanding… [once] we have taken steps to improve our safety culture and rebuild trust.”
In addition to cutting spending, Cruise has announced multiple delays to the production of its Origin self-driving van, resignations from two separate co-founders and executives, recalls of its 950 Chevy Bolt self-driving vehicles and more. Following the incident, Cruise’s self-driving permit was immediately revoked by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and the company faces a federal investigation from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
A letter was sent to the NHTSA that had been signed by 26 different transportation labor organizations, highlighting “grave safety concerns about the expanded testing and operation of automated driving system-equipped vehicles,” according to Transportation Trades Department chief of staff Matthew Colvin.
Some have questioned how the company’s finances will look in the wake of the incident, especially as it moves away from tangible returns that possible investors can justify investing in. Barclays auto analyst Dan Levy thinks will be front and center in the minds of investors keeping tabs on the announcements this week.
“The big question is to what extent ‘Zero Zero Zero’ also hinged on zero rates,” Levy said. “This has been a big theme this year in auto; everyone has had to step back from the euphoria.”
Along with being concerned about returns, GM investors are also hesitant about the startup’s safety following the accident, as expressed by some in the weeks since.
“The problem for Cruise as a business is GM is dependent on it for all the software [revenue] targets the company has set,” said one GM investor. “We don’t see a path to profit, but we do see they will burn a lot of cash trying. GM would be better placed winding back its bet, and returning the money to shareholders.”
“The public are also recognising that being unwitting guinea pigs to unproven tech that’s desperately underregulated is not what anybody has signed up for,” the investor added, noting that a move to reduce spending “as much as possible” at Cruise would constitute an “easy win.”