Autonomous Truck Startup Locomation Laying Off Employees

A Locomation third-gen test vehicle
A Locomation third-gen test vehicle. (Locomation)

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Driverless truck startup company Locomation has laid off most of its staff as it winds down operations, the second autonomous vehicle outfit in the Pittsburgh, Pa., area to encounter financial difficulties in four months.

Most of the estimated 80 employees at Lawrenceville, Pa.-based Locomation Inc. were to be out of work by Feb. 24, according to an employee who asked not to be identified. The inability to raise additional investment capital was the reason given for the company’s closure.

Locomation had raised $57 million from investors, according to Crunchbase, including $34 million in 2021 in a round led by Boulder, Colo.-based Blackhorn Ventures. Blackhorn officials were not immediately available for comment.

The news comes after Strip District-based Argo AI closed suddenly in October when two of its biggest investors, Ford and Volkswagen, pulled out. Shuttering the two companies leaves Aurora Innovations Inc., which occupies 590,000 square feet of space at its corporate headquarters in the Strip District, as the biggest remaining autonomous driving company left in Pittsburgh.

Aurora has said it plans to launch autonomous driving trucks in late 2024.

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Locomation officials were not available for comment Feb. 23. Finch Fulton, Locomation vice president of policy and strategy, told the Pittsburgh Business Times, “Obviously, we’re super disappointed; we do feel like we had all the right pieces in place. We had really smart people and a very strategic approach. … We have customers in the product market that we just, for a number of macroeconomic reasons, were unable to raise money to continue operations and to progress further to be able to get the product ready for commercial operation.”

Locomation’s approach to autonomous trucks was a convoy system, which allowed one rig to have a human driver while a truck traveling behind it was driverless and guided by sensors and other electronics in the lead truck.

Self-driving mode would allow a trucker in the second vehicle to sleep in preparation for taking over driving duties, lowering transportation costs by allowing rigs to operate almost continuously.

Locomation, a Carnegie Mellon University spinout, was started in 2018 by five co-founders, including brothers CEO Çetin Meriçli and CTO Tekin Meriçli. Alonzo Kelly, chief strategist; Venkataramanan Rajagopalan, head of autonomy; and Michael George, vice president of engineering, were the other co-founders.

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