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GM shifts its president to CEO spot at Cruise

Cruise Automation executives
Cruise Automation’s newly reshuffled executive team includes chief operating officer Dan Kan,; Kyle Vogt, who will become president and chief technology officer; and GM President Dan Ammann, who will become Cruise’s chief executive officer. (GM Photo / Noah Berger)

General Motors has shuffled its executive team to put its president, Dan Ammann, into the CEO spot at its autonomous-vehicle subsidiary, Cruise Automation.

Cruise co-founder Kyle Vogt will move out of the CEO role and partner with Ammann to set the company’s strategic direction and lead technology development as its president and chief technology officer, GM and Cruise said today in a news release.

The executive shift is effective Jan. 1, 2019.

San Francisco-based Cruise has grown from 40 employees to more than 1,000 during Vogt’s tenure as CEO. Just last week, Cruise announced that it would be setting up a Seattle-area engineering office with plans to add up to 200 employees by the end of next year.

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Audi and Airbus show off mini-me flying car

Pop.Up Next prototype
Audi, Airbus and Italdesign are showing off a quarter-scale prototype of their “Pop.Up Next” drone-car hybrid at the Amsterdam Drone Week conference. (Audi AG Photo)

A flying car developed by Airbus, Audi and Italdesign took a high-profile test flight today at the Amsterdam Drone Week conference, but its size was low-profile.

The modular vehicle was a quarter-scale demonstration model of the “Pop.Up Next” transportation system that the three companies are developing.

The idea is to have a passenger compartment that can sit on top of a four-wheeled electric vehicle to travel the roads, or attach to the bottom of a quadcopter to fly through the air. At the Amsterdam show, the three companies displayed impressive full-scale mockups of the flying car, but the gizmo that actually flew was basically a drone with brackets attached.

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GM’s self-driving car venture plans Seattle office

Cruise Chevy Bolt
GM-owned Cruise Automation is developing autonomous driving capabilities using the Chevy Bolt as a testbed. (General Motors / Cruise Automation Photo)

Cruise Automation, General Motors’ autonomous-vehicle subsidiary, says it’s getting ready to open up an office in the Seattle area that could employ as many as 200 engineers within a year.

Don’t expect Cruise to start putting its self-driving Chevy Bolts on the streets of Seattle, as the San Francisco-based venture has done in its hometown as well as in Arizona and the Detroit area. There aren’t any plans to test autonomous vehicles in the Seattle area. But Cruise has big plans to take advantage of Seattle’s status as a magnet for software engineers, data analysts and experts in computer vision and machine learning.

“To continue growing a team that is diverse and rich in talent, we feel that it’s important to explore talent pools outside of the Bay Area, and Seattle’s vibrant tech community and proximity to our headquarters in San Francisco make it a logical choice,” Kyle Vogt, Cruise’s CEO and co-founder, said in a statement emailed to GeekWire.

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After drama, Tesla posts ‘historic’ quarterly report

Elon Musk
Tesla CEO presides over the handover of the first Model 3 cars in August 2017. (Tesla via YouTube)

Tesla shares jumped more than 10 percent in after-hours trading today after the controversial electric-car company posted a surprisingly positive quarterly report, including a profit rather than a loss.

Adjusted net income for the third quarter amounted to $312 million, which translated into earnings of $2.90 a share. Analysts had expected a loss of around 19 cents per share.

Total revenue hit $6.8 billion, exceeding expectations of $6.3 billion. And Tesla’s cash on hand increased by $731 million, even though Tesla repaid $82.5 million in bonds during the quarter.

That cash position could take some of the pressure off Tesla, which had been burning through its reserves by the billions during what CEO Elon Musk called “production hell” for the company’s Model 3 electric car.

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SEC settlement buoys Tesla share prices

Tesla Model 3
Tesla has been hustling to deliver Model 3 cars at the end of its financial third quarter. (Tesla Photo)

Tesla’s share price jumped today as dramatically as it fell on Sept. 28, thanks largely to this weekend’s settlement of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s complaints against the company and its CEO, Elon Musk.

After falling 14 percent on Sept. 28, the stock rose 17 percent today, leaving the closely watched price at $310.70 at the close. That’s above the level it held during Sept. 27’s trading hours, just before the SEC announced that it was charging Musk with securities fraud.

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Elon Musk agrees to resign as Tesla chairman

Elon Musk
Elon Musk in Seattle in 2015. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper)

By Todd Bishop and Alan Boyle

Elon Musk has agreed to step down as Tesla’s chairman for three years but will remain CEO of the electric car maker, under the terms of documents filed today to settle a securities fraud case brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Musk will also pay a $20 million penalty to settle charges sparked by his Aug. 7 tweets about a plan to take Tesla private. Tesla will pay an additional $20 million, the SEC said in a news release.

In addition, Tesla agreed to appoint two new independent directors to its board, establish a new committee of independent directors and implement procedures to oversee Musk’s communications via Twitter and other avenues.

Neither Musk nor Tesla admitted wrongdoing as part of the agreement, according to court papers. But Musk will be required to comply with Tesla’s new procedures for social-media posts, updates on the company’s website and blog, and statements made in news releases or during investor calls.

Tesla would have to give “pre-approval of any such written communications that contain, or reasonably could contain, information material to the company or its shareholders,” according to court documents.

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Elon Musk calls SEC charges ‘unjustified’

Tesla CEO Elon Musk says he’s “deeply saddened” by the claims against him. (Tesla via YouTube)

Update: Elon Musk and Tesla settle with SEC.

Tesla’s billionaire CEO and chairman, Elon Musk, is calling the Securities and Exchange Commission’s fraud claims against him “unjustified” after reportedly passing up a settlement deal that would have temporarily forced him from a leadership post.

“This unjustified action by the SEC leaves me deeply saddened and disappointed,” Musk said in a statement distributed Sept. 27 after the SEC filed its civil complaint. “I have always taken action in the best interests of truth, transparency and investors. Integrity is the most important value in my life and the facts will show I never compromised this in any way.”

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SEC charges Tesla’s Elon Musk with securities fraud

Elon Musk
Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks to shareholders in June. (Tesla via YouTube)

Update: Elon Musk and Tesla settle with SEC.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Tesla’s billionaire CEO and chairman, Elon Musk, with securities fraud over a series of controversial tweets focusing on the electric-car company’s future financial status.

If the SEC is fully successful in arguing its claims, Musk could be barred from serving as an officer or director of Tesla or any other publicly traded company.

The complaint in federal court focuses on what the SEC calls “false and misleading tweets” about a potential transaction to buy up Tesla’s publicly traded shares at a premium price of $420 and take the company private.

“Funding secured,” Musk said in Aug. 7’s most controversial tweet.

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Tesla stock declines after report of criminal probe

Image: Elon Musk
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk talks about the Model 3 during its 2016 unveiling. (Credit: Tesla)

Tesla shares fell by as much as 6.5 percent today after Bloomberg News reported that the electric-car company was the subject of a criminal investigation by the Justice Department, focusing on CEO Elon Musk’s claims that he had secured the funding to take Tesla private.

The “funding secured” comment, posted on Twitter on Aug. 7, has also sparked increased scrutiny for civil action by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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Microsoft and Kymeta show off connected cars

Microsoft connected car
A prototype vehicle designed for disaster response is outfitted with Kymeta’s KyWay flat-panel satellite antenna. (Microsoft / Kymeta Photo)

REDMOND, Wash. — The vehicles sitting in the parking lot here at the headquarters of Kymeta Corp., a flat-panel antenna startup backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, are a car fan’s dream. But Microsoft’s Scott Montgomery says you have to look under the hood. And under the roof.

“The vehicles themselves are literally just four wheels and an engine to get the platform where we need it to go,” Montgomery, who’s a senior industry solution manager at Redmond-based Microsoft, told GeekWire.

“What I always tell folks is, forget about the cars,” he said. “It’s really not about the cars. It’s about everything that sits within the cars, and also what sits within the cloud.”

The platform is a combination of hardware, software and cloud computing connections that can turn a sport-utility vehicle into a mobile communications hub for police officers, firefighters or disaster response teams, complete with industrial-strength data servers and satellite links.

Kymeta, Microsoft and other vendors organized today’s parking-lot demo to show journalists, officials and VIPs how their platforms can work together to address future worst-case scenarios, such as the West Coast earthquake threat known as the Really Big One.

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