Hello, ghouls and goblins, and welcome to this Halloween Weekend edition of Week in Review (WiR), TechCrunch’s weekly tech recap in newsletter form. For our U.S.-based readers (and this reporter), ’tis the time for mid-autumn merrymaking — time-tested traditions like jack-o’-lantern carving, costuming and apple picking. May we all make the most of it.
In this issue of WiR, we cover the California DMV suspending Cruise’s robotaxi permit, doing expenses in VR, the Apple Watch’s best new feature going live and an e-commerce startup founded by an ex-PayPal exec that aims to give customers more control over their shopping data. Elsewhere, we spotlight the victims of Okta’s latest hack, Carta’s CEO trying to head off bad press, the latest from the FTX trial and Rivian winning the longest off-road competition in the U.S.
It’s a lot to get through, so let’s not delay. But first, a reminder to sign up here to receive WiR in your inbox every Saturday if you haven’t already done so.
Cruising no more: The California Department of Motor Vehicles on Tuesday suspended Cruise’s deployment and driverless testing permits, ending the GM self-driving car subsidiary’s robotaxi operations in San Francisco. Subsequently, Cruise announced that it would pause all of its robotaxi operations, including in Austin, Houston, Phoenix and Miami, to “rebuild public trust.”
Expensing meets VR: Intrepid TC editor Darrell Etherington did his expensing in Concur using Meta’s latest headset, the Quest 3. So how’d it go? Concur “still sucks super hard in VR,” Darrell writes — but surprisingly, Concur didn’t suck any more than it does in more conventional computing environments, and he actually enjoyed doing most of the related, “normal computer” things on Quest 3.
Double tap that: With this week’s watchOS 10.1 drop, Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 owners now have access to one of the smartwatches’ more exciting features. Double Tap, which adds gesture-based interactions through tapping one’s index finger and thumb together twice, is a clever new way to interact with the wearable when your other hand is full, Brian writes.
Retail your way: Mary Ann writes about I Own My Data (IOMD), a startup founded by an ex-PayPal exec aiming to eliminate a tedious step for customers: creating an account every time you purchase something from an online store. With IOMD, all of a user’s private information, such as past purchases, cards, addresses and preferences, are stored on their own device — so transactions can be completed instantly with a click, tap or touch anywhere on the web.
Okta hack fallout: Network and security giant Cloudflare and password manager maker 1Password said hackers briefly targeted their systems following a recent breach of Okta’s support unit. Both Cloudflare and 1Password said their intrusions were linked to the hack of Okta, the identity and access management platform, but that the incidents didn’t affect customer systems or user data.
Carta fights back: In an attempt at damage control, Henry Ward, the CEO of the equity management startup Carta, this week emailed customers, telling them that if they’re concerned about “negative press” tied to the outfit, they should read a recent Medium post of his. In the post, Ward outlines conversations he’s had with Carta employees about numerous stories surrounding the company, including stories about lawsuits around allegations of sexual abuse on the part of executives, a toxic “boy’s club culture” and indecent exposure, among other things.
FTX execs likely escape jail: Gary Wang, co-founder and CTO of failed crypto exchange FTX; Caroline Ellison, CEO of Alameda, FTX’s sister company; and Nishad Singh, FTX head of engineering, have all pleaded guilty to charges after the exchange and Alameda’s dramatic downfall in November 2022. But an ex-Southern District of New York (SDNY) prosecutor, speaking to TechCrunch’s blockchain reporter Jacquelyn Melinek, says that Ellison, Wang and Singh probably won’t get jail time, as they’ve been cooperating witnesses.
Rivian comes out ahead: In a win for Rivian, the Amazon-backed startup’s R1T is the first EV to win the longest off-road competition in the U.S., the Rebelle Rally. The race — now in its eighth year — requires teams to complete a 2,120-kilometer course using only paper maps, compasses and plotters, Kirsten writes.
Looking for background listening material as you make costume alterations, paint pumpkins and restock the candy jar? TechCrunch has you covered — as always.
On Equity, the crew covered a few deals of the week, including news from I Own My Data and AgentSync. Other big-ticket items included Carta’s comms snafu, the recent roadblock for Cruise driverless taxis (and why Waymo appears to be winning) and notes on Alphabet’s and Microsoft’s recent earnings.
Found spoke with Jonas Torland from 7Analytics, a Norwegian company that’s built a data platform that powers tools and products for sustainable risk management. Their models predict the paths of floodwaters, which allow them to predict and map the damage that results.
And Chain Reaction interviewed Josh Naftalis, partner at law firm Pallas Partners. Naftalis is a longtime attorney who represents companies, boards and executives in cases for white-collar criminal defense, regulatory enforcement matters, internal investigations, crisis management and more.
TC+ subscribers get access to in-depth commentary, analysis and surveys — which you know if you’re already a subscriber. If you’re not, consider signing up. Here are a few highlights from this week:
Spam gets worse: Haje writes about how AI-powered tools are making sales emails, phishing and spam worse for all of us — particularly tools that plug into social media to build a picture of what might be happening in their targets’ lives.
AI-boosted ads: Alex and Anna write that Big Tech firms with big reach have been raking in big ad bucks, lately — particularly those with AI chops, which has made their ability to pull in advertising dollars even stronger.
Seed deals become pricey: Why are seed deals so expensive these days? Alex writes that rapid growth is to blame; late-stage deals are becoming rarer and smaller and cheaper today, conversely.