Autonomous trucking technology company TuSimple plans to cut a chunk of its workforce, potentially as early as this week, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited “people familiar with the matter.”
While the Journal reported layoffs could affect at least half of TuSimple’s workforce, TechCrunch’s own source familiar with the matter said that number is not correct, but wouldn’t say more. It might be closer to 15%, according to online forums, some of which have speculated there’s been a game of telephone happening here (e.g. 15 sounds like 50).
Talks of layoffs at TuSimple have been ongoing for weeks, particularly following the end of TuSimple’s deal with Navistar to co-develop purpose-built autonomous semi trucks. TuSimple has rescinded offers it gave to interns to join the company, and posts on LinkedIn and Blind have mentioned “huge layoffs.”
While the number of employees to be let go is still unknown — TuSimple currently has about 1,430 full-time employees globally — it’s not surprising to see yet another tech company downsize as a result of macroeconomic headwinds and internal dramas.
TuSimple has suffered a couple of executive shakeups this year. CEO Cheng Lu, who was asked to step down into an advisory role in March, took over again last month. His predecessor and TuSimple’s founder Xiaodi Hou was fired following an internal probe that showed certain employees having ties and sharing confidential information with Hydron, a China-backed hydrogen-powered trucking company. The company is still facing multiple federal investigations related to its relationship with Hydron.
TuSimple’s stock price has also plummeted this year, dropping 95.63% from January, and the company has dealt with loss of investor confidence following the crash of one of its trucks in April. As a company building frontier technology, TuSimple has struggled to generate nearly enough revenue to cover its cash burn. In the third quarter, TuSimple reported $113 million in losses on a revenue of $2.7 million — revenue which came from hauling freight for shippers in trucks that had a human safety operator behind the wheel.
“Like every technology and self-driving company, we are closely examining our spending and how to align that with our strategy,” Lu told TechCrunch.
WSJ reported that TuSimple plans to scale back its work building self-driving systems and testing autonomous trucks on public roads in Arizona and Texas, a claim that Lu denied to TechCrunch. The teams involved in TuSimple’s operations in Tucson and self-driving software algorithms would be cut down as a result, the sources told the Journal.
Some of the imminent layoffs might come from the teams responsible for co-building trucks with Navistar. However, a source familiar with the matter told TechCrunch that TuSimple is planning on replacing Navistar with a new OEM partner.
Sources told WSJ they expect layoffs to begin Tuesday, and that TuSimple told employees offices would be closed down Tuesday and Wednesday.
Canary in the coal mine
Interns whose offers to join the company were rescinded, as well as current TuSimple employees, have mentioned layoffs occurring at the company on LinkedIn and Blind.
“Affected by today’s TuSimple massive layoffs, my return offer as a Research Engineer was rescinded,” posted one former intern earlier this month who worked at TuSimple from June to September.
In response to a query on Blind by a person who recently interviewed at the company, one TuSimple employee commented on December 5 saying: “We’re going through huge layoffs right now. Stock is at an all time low. No clear path to making money.” The same person also said that staff morale “is pretty low.”
That sentiment is mirrored by other comments on TuSimple’s Blind profile. The latest company review, dated December 6, is titled “never trust this company.” The employee, a software applications engineer, said that a pro of working for TuSimple is the company “provide[s] you with a hallucination that [it] may succeed.” Cons were listed as toxic culture, horrible CEO, no profitable product and massive layoffs on the way.
While Blind posts are anonymous, the company told TechCrunch its community is made up of verified professionals. No one is allowed to post unless they are verified as a current employee of a given workplace using their work email.