Cruise’s Safety Initiative: A General Motors-Backed Commitment
In a resolute move, Cruise, the innovative autonomous vehicle venture under the General Motors umbrella, has initiated a recall that affects 950 of its cutting-edge robotaxis. This proactive response follows a pedestrian collision incident in San Francisco last month, which had prompted the suspension of all driverless operations by the company.
The incident on October 2nd was a result of a human driver in another vehicle striking a pedestrian, who was subsequently thrown into the path of the Cruise robotaxi. Notably, the autonomous vehicle system reacted by applying aggressive braking before impact and then attempting to maneuver to the roadside. Regrettably, during this process, the vehicle unintentionally moved the pedestrian forward by about 20 feet, leading to an investigation by federal authorities.
In the wake of the collision and in cooperation with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Cruise conducted a detailed analysis and found imperfections within its automated driving system software, particularly concerning the “Collision Detection Subsystem.” The company revealed that under specific conditions, post-collision response might result in the Cruise AV attempting to move out of traffic instead of staying stationary, particularly when the collision involves a pedestrian positioned low on the ground within the vehicle’s path.
To address this issue, Cruise has decided to implement a voluntary recall of 950 robotaxis to rectify the software defects. Simultaneously, the company is actively searching for a Chief Safety Officer to oversee safety reviews and investigations, a role temporarily held by Louise Zhang, VP of Safety & Systems at Cruise.
Moreover, Cruise has initiated third-party reviews of the October 2nd incident, enlisting the services of renowned law firm Quinn Emanuel, known for its work on behalf of Tesla and Elon Musk, along with engineering consultants from Exponent.
The aftermath of the collision has had ripple effects on Cruise’s operations, leading to a loss of permits to operate driverless vehicles in California unless a human safety driver is present. This contrasts with rival Waymo, owned by Google parent company Alphabet, which continues to operate its driverless fleets in California and beyond.
In response to safety concerns and public backlash, Cruise also temporarily halted the production of its Cruise Origin driverless vans. These vehicles, unveiled in 2020, are characterized by their absence of a steering wheel or acceleration pedal and can accommodate up to six passengers.
The financial impact of these developments on General Motors has been substantial, with the company reporting a loss of approximately $1.9 billion related to Cruise from January through September this year, including a third-quarter loss of $732 million.
Cruise’s commitment to safety and its proactive measures in response to the recent incident underline the company’s dedication to providing secure and reliable autonomous transportation solutions, setting a precedent for the industry.
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