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Autonomous platooning startup Locomation denies reports of its demise

'Economic headwinds' lead to layoffs of most non-engineering employees

Pittsburgh-area autonomous platooning startup Locomation denied media reports it is closing but it did lay off most non-engineering employees. (Photo: Locomation)

Autonomous truck startup Locomation Inc. denied published reports that it is closing.

“We are not shutting down,” company co-founder and CEO Çetin Meriçli told FreightWaves in an email late Friday. “We did reduce most of our non-engineering headcount in the face of economic headwinds.

“Unfortunately, we had an employee give an unauthorized and inaccurate quote, and despite providing further information, the original story ran anyway.”

Several Pittsburgh-area media outlets reported Thursday the company was closing.

An industry analyst told FreightWaves that several laid-off Locomation employees contacted him seeking other job prospects.

It’s unknown how many of Locomation’s estimated 122 employees faced termination. Mericli declined to provide specifics.

Locomation failed to raise additional investment capital, leading to the layoffs, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The company has raised $105 million since its founding in 2018, including $15 million in October 2022, according to PitchBook.

“Obviously, we’re super disappointed; we do feel like we had all the right pieces in place,” Finch Fulton, Locomation vice president of policy and strategy, told the Pittsburgh Business Times. 

‘Smart people and a very strategic approach’

“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 is pursuing a platooning approach for heavy-duty trucks. That would allow a truck with a safety driver to lead a second truck with the driver in the second truck resting or doing other work. 

By swapping the drivers at the end of an 11-hour allowable shift, Locomation could safely operate two trucks for up to 22 hours per day while remaining in compliance with hours-of-service regulations. Locomation said it expected to eventually remove the drivers from the trucks.

“We continue to regularly do 200-mile platooning runs with our human-guided autonomy,” Mericli said.

The company has attracted significant interest from carriers. In August, Stevens Trucking Co. reached an eight-year agreement to use Locomation’s autonomous relay convoys to operate up to 500 trucks on specific interstate lane segments in the next five years. Financial terms were undisclosed. 

Locomation previously signed contracts with Wilson Logistics, PGT Trucking and Christenson Transportation. 

Editor’s note: Updates with comments from CEO denying reports of company closing.

Locomation gets 8-year deal with Stevens Trucking for autonomous convoys

Locomation claims huge improvements in emissions and fuel savings

Convoy plan doubles down on autonomous trucking challenge

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Alan Adler

Alan Adler is an award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.