Another autonomous trucking startup announces layoffs

It’s been a tough seven days for autonomous trucking startups. Last week, Kodiak Robotics laid off more than a dozen employees. And now Ike, another company aiming to automate long-haul trucking, has laid off ten employees, equating to 14% of its staff, the Information reported on Wednesday.

Like many transportation companies that have laid off workers in recent weeks, Ike cited the pandemic as the proximate cause of the layoffs.

“With the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 crisis, we have made some changes to our team in the interest of ensuring Ike’s long term success,” the company said in an emailed statement to FreightWaves.

“The people we let go were valued colleagues who contributed to our product and culture, and we are working hard to help them find new roles while providing them with several months of severance and other support.”

Founded by veterans of Apple, Google and Uber’s self-driving truck program, Ike took a slower, steadier approach to getting self-driving trucks on the road. 

The startup, named to FreightWaves’ FreightTech 25 list of most innovative companies this year, is one of the few in the space that are not testing its vehicle on public roads. Last year, the company made waves by releasing a safety self-assessment before operating in the public realm.

The layoffs will not change Ike’s game plan, according to the statement.

“We have spent the last 18 months building a strong foundation for a real automated trucking product,” the company said. 

“We remain confident in our team, our unique technical advantages, and our strategy informed by hard earned experience. We are continuing to invest in product development with our industry partners, and have a long runway to see through our vision for making trucks safer, truckers more valued, and trucking more productive.”

The climate for self-driving vehicle startups has changed dramatically over the past year, as VC firms take a more cautious approach to investing and uncertainty increases as to when autonomous cars and trucks will be safe enough to operate in cities and on highways.

In February, self-driving trucking firm Starsky Robotics shut down after failing to raise additional venture capital.