November 10, 2023
Cruise has confirmed it is recalling its fleet of 950 self-driving taxis for a software update in the wake of a crash at the start of October.
The widely reported incident in San Francisco saw a pedestrian struck by a hit-and-run human-driven vehicle that projected her into the path of one of Cruise’s autonomous Chevrolet Bolts.
The AV then dragged her 20 feet along the road before coming to a halt, leaving her trapped and seriously injured.
Cruise issued the recall through a filing with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is standard procedure.
In its recall notice, Cruise explains that the Collision Detection Subsystem within its vehicles’ Automated Driving System (ADS) is responsible for “electing a post-collision response.” This normally means pulling over, out of the way of traffic, or stopping and remaining stationary.
Cruise goes on to admit that in some situations, a pullover attempt “is not the desired post-collision response.” In the Oct. 2 crash, Cruise says the ADS “inaccurately characterized the collision as a lateral collision and commanded the AV to attempt to pull over out of traffic, pulling the individual forward, rather than remaining stationary.”
Should a similar scenario arise again, the update would ensure a vehicle did indeed remain stationary.
However, the company was keen to point out how rare the likelihood of a repeat is, claiming in a statement posted on its website: “We determined that 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.”
The accident was arguably the most significant event in a series of setbacks that has turned into a public relations nightmare for the General Motors subsidiary, causing some to question the viability of its self-driving technology.
In August, the California Department of Motor Vehicles asked Cruise to reduce its fleet of self-driving taxis in San Francisco by 50% following a couple of accidents, then removed its permits for driverless deployment completely following the Oct. 2 accident due to an “unreasonable risk to public safety.”
This prompted Cruise to pause its operations across the United States to try to regain trust, and with the company effectively in limbo, it has also decided to suspend production of its purpose-built AV, the Origin.
The decision to issue a recall for a software update is among a number of measures announced by the firm as it begins the process of trying to restore public confidence.
It has also announced the creation of a new chief safety officer role, hired a law firm to examine its response to the Oct. 2 accident, tasked an independent engineering firm, Exponent, to perform a “technical root cause analysis” of the crash, and established new internal pillars focusing on safety and transparency.
The seriousness of the situation is reflected by the contrite tone of the statement on the Cruise website, which pledges: “We are dedicated to building a better Cruise, and these initial actions are just some of the steps we’re taking as we listen, learn, and improve. We plan to seek input from our government and agency partners and other key stakeholders to understand how we can be better partners.”
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