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GM's Cruise Faces Federal Investigations After Accident Involving Pedestrian

Image credit - Reuters

GM’s Cruise Faces Federal Investigations After Accident Involving Pedestrian

General Motors’ Cruise recalled 950 driverless cars from the roads across the United States following a crash involving one of its robotaxis and is facing federal investigations.

Source: Reuters

The cars were recalled because the collision detection subsystem of the Cruise Automated Driving Systems (ADS) software might have responded improperly after a crash, according to a notice made public by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The recall was the latest setback for GM’s Cruise unit that faces growing questions about its technology that GM says it key to its growth plans. GM Chief Executive Mary Barra reiterated in June a forecast Cruise could generate US$50 billion in revenue by 2030. Cruise lost more than US$700 million in Q3 2023. GM shares fell 1.6% to $27.95 on Wednesday.

Cruise reported the government investigations in a blog post in which the company also vowed to reform its culture stemming from a “failure of leadership” around the incident. One expert said the actions that Cruise took immediately after the accident were “egregious.”

Last October, a pedestrian in San Francisco was struck, by a hit-and-run driver and thrown into an adjacent lane and was hit a second time by a Cruise robotaxi that was not able to stop in time and then dragged the pedestrian. The recall addresses circumstances when the software may cause the Cruise AV to attempt to pull over out of traffic instead of remaining stationary “when a pullover is not the desired post-collision response,” Cruise said.

Cruise said it would halt operations nationwide after California regulators suspended the robotaxi operator’s license, saying the Cruise self-driving vehicles were a risk to the public. The company said it is temporarily halting production of its fully autonomous Cruise Origin.

Cruise said it determined “a similar collision with a risk of serious injury could have recurred every 10 million to 100 million miles of driving on average prior to the software update.” It is facing two federal investigations over the safety of its cars, including two incidents where the robot cars appeared not to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.

The new probes and disclosures about Cruise’s mishandling of the accident intensified pressure on General Motors and its CEO Mary Barra, who has defended the automaker’s investment in the robotaxi operation despite more than US$8 billion in losses. GM reports Q4 2023’s results on 30 Jan 2024,and Barra could face more questions about the future of Cruise from analysts.

General Motors’ Cruise robotaxi unit dismissed nine key people amid an ongoing safety investigation according to a memo, which the company confirmed included Chief Operating Officer Gil West.

The incident creates problems for other robotaxi companies, including Alphabet’s Waymo and Zoox, a unit of Amazon. Critics of robotaxis, including the Teamsters union, are calling for slowing the rollout of autonomous vehicles. California has already suspended the company’s permission to operate autonomous vehicles in the state.


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