GM’s cruise unit tries to rob Zoox engineers amid sale talks, report says

Autonomous driving technology company Cruise, a unit of General Motors, is trying to hunt down engineers from rival Zoox Inc., according to an email sent to Zoox engineers by Cruise’s founder this week.

The move comes when the Wall Street Journal reported last week that e-commerce giant Amazon.com Inc. is in advanced talks to buy Zoox, a company founded six years ago and based in Silicon Valley.

“Cruise is keen to recognize the full value of the rewards he has earned at Zoox, something that is highly unlikely to occur through an acquisition in this environment,” said email from Cruise founder Kyle Vogt, sent in the last two days, according to a person who has seen the email. Reuters has not seen a copy of it.

Cruise on Thursday confirmed that the email was sent. “We are looking for the best talent in the world, wherever they are working and whatever they are working on,” Cruise communications director Kristine Boyden said by email.

The person who saw the email said Amazon was not mentioned in the letter, but started by saying, “Write because your company is about to go through a major transition.”

Zoox did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Cruise’s letter to its employees. As of May 12, Zoox had about 1,100 employees, according to data company PitchBook.

Records from the California Department of Employment Development show Zoox laid off 87 employees in April.

The person said Cruise has doubled in recruiting talent for its core technology and that the layoffs in May that affected more than 140 employees was a move toward the “right size” of the organization. The layoffs included staff from an engineering team in Pasadena, California, who worked on lidar, a sensor technology that uses pulsed laser light to detect objects.

Still, Cruise acquired a German radar company Astyx that has about 60 employees in April, the company confirmed Thursday.

Cruise also hired many engineers this year from autonomous trucking firm Starsky Robotics that closed in March, according to two former Starsky engineers and information posted by engineers on LinkedIn.

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