Cruise Suspends Autonomous Taxis Amid Safety Concerns and Federal Investigations

General Motors' Autonomous Vehicle Venture Faces Regulatory Scrutiny and Safety Challenges

by Sededin Dedovic
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Cruise Suspends Autonomous Taxis Amid Safety Concerns and Federal Investigations
© Bill Pugliano / Getty Images

Cruise, the subsidiary owned by General Motors (GM) specializing in autonomous vehicles, has temporarily suspended the operation of its self-driving taxis across the United States. This decision came after California authorities deemed the vehicles a potential threat to public safety.

This week, the California Department of Motor Vehicles revoked Cruise's operating license, which had recently allowed their "robotaxis" to transport passengers in San Francisco. Additionally, Cruise is currently under federal investigation due to concerns about the safety of pedestrians and passengers when using driverless vehicles.

In response, the company stated on their social network platform, X, "We have chosen to halt all autonomous operations while we review and improve our procedures, systems, and equipment to enhance public trust." Cruise has announced that it will continue the operation of its autonomous vehicles, but with human supervision, including a driver.

The decision by California authorities is a significant setback for General Motors, which had high expectations for Cruise. The automotive giant had projected annual revenues of $1 billion from Cruise by 2025, but last year's income amounted to only $106 million, accompanied by a $2 billion loss.

It's important to note that Cruise claims its decision to reassess its operations is not directly linked to a recent car accident. Nonetheless, earlier this month, one of Cruise's "robotaxis" was involved in an incident where a pedestrian was hit by another human-driven vehicle.

The pedestrian's leg became trapped under the wheel of the Cruise vehicle as the autonomous system engaged a sudden braking maneuver, as intended in case of encountering a significant obstacle. The pedestrian was only rescued after the autonomous vehicle was physically lifted away.

Cruise has asserted its cooperation with authorities investigating this incident since October 2, and their engineers are actively working to improve responses to such rare events. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced an investigation into Cruise's autonomous vehicle division following reports of the vehicles failing to adequately detect and respond to pedestrians, even at crosswalks.

NHTSA's Office of Failure Investigation disclosed two reports of pedestrian injuries involving Cruise vehicles, with two more cases identified through publicly available videos. The total number of such incidents remains unknown.

In December of the previous year, NHTSA initiated an investigation into reports of Cruise's "robotaxis" making sudden and unexpected stops without apparent reason, leading to passenger injuries. This investigation was prompted by three rear-end collisions involving the "robotaxis" abruptly stopping.

During this investigation, NHTSA received five additional reports of unexplained stops by "robotaxis" without any obstacles in their path. In each case, the vehicles lacked human supervision, resulting in other vehicles colliding with them from behind.

Cruise has previously claimed that its driverless vehicles travel more miles safely compared to conventional vehicles with human drivers and maintain a lower accident rate.

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