DMV cites “unreasonable risk to public safety” for suspension; meanwhile, Cruise suspends San Francisco operations

Graham Hope

October 25, 2023

4 Min Read
A Cruise technician removes a cone from the hood of a disabled self-driving robotaxi in San Francisco, California on July 11, 2023
Getty Images

Cruise’s driverless taxis have been temporarily banned from testing and operating on the streets of San Francisco amid safety concerns.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has suspended the General Motors’ subsidiary’s permits for autonomous vehicle deployment and driverless testing. The DMV issued a statement on the dramatic move, explaining it was down to an unreasonable risk to public safety.”

The ban is effective immediately, although the DMV decision does not affect Cruise’s ability to test with a safety driver.

The statement highlights specific reasons why the suspension is necessary, including when a “manufacturer’s vehicles are not safe for public operation,” and also when it has “misrepresented” information relating to the safety of the vehicles.

The latter point relates to an accident that occurred at the start of October, where a pedestrian was struck by a human-driven vehicle that launched her into the path of a Cruise AV. This ultimately came to a halt with her trapped underneath, but it’s what happened after the immediate impact that has caused concern.

The element of “misrepresentation” centers around video of the incident from the AV’s cameras. It is understood the DMV says Cruise only initially provided footage from the taxi of it stopping on impact, and it was not informed of subsequent movement by the AV as it attempted a pullover maneuver with the pedestrian underneath.

Related:Woman Trapped Under Self-Driving Taxi After Freak Accident

The DMV was later informed of this subsequent movement by another agency and requested additional footage from Cruise, which it says it was only then provided with. Cruise, however, claims “the full video” was shared with the DMV.

The suspension follows a turbulent few months for Cruise in San Francisco. On Aug. 10, it was granted approval to operate its driverless taxis 24/7 by the California Public Utilities Commission, despite complaints from locals and city organizations about traffic holdups and delays for first responders.

But weeks later, the DMV requested Cruise halve its fleet in the city following two separate incidents, including a collision with a fire truck. And in mid-October, it emerged that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was investigating crashes involving Cruise AVs over fears that they may not “have exercised appropriate caution around pedestrians.”

Responding to the suspension, Cruise said: “We will be pausing operations of our driverless AVs in San Francisco. Ultimately, we develop and deploy autonomous vehicles in an effort to save lives. 

Related:Cruise to Cut Self-Driving Taxi Fleet in Half After Crashes

“In the incident being reviewed by the DMV, a human hit-and-run driver tragically struck and propelled the pedestrian into the path of the AV. The AV braked aggressively before impact and because it detected a collision, it attempted to pull over to avoid further safety issues.

“When the AV tried to pull over, it continued before coming to a final stop, pulling the pedestrian forward. Our thoughts continue to be with the victim as we hope for a rapid and complete recovery.

“Shortly after the incident, our team proactively shared information with the California DMV, CPUC, and NHTSA, including the full video. We have stayed in close contact with regulators to answer their questions and assisted the police with identifying the vehicle of the hit and run driver. 

“Our teams are currently doing an analysis to identify potential enhancements to the AV’s response to this kind of extremely rare event.”

There is no set length for a suspension, but the DMV says it has “provided Cruise with the steps needed to apply to reinstate its suspended permits, which the DMV will not approve until the company has fulfilled the requirements to the department’s satisfaction.”

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Related:Cruise, Waymo Get OK for Self-Driving Taxi Fleets in San Francisco

About the Author(s)

Graham Hope

Graham Hope has worked in automotive journalism in the U.K. for 26 years, including spells as editor of leading consumer news website and weekly Auto Express and respected buying guide CarBuyer.

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