October 19, 2023
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has launched a probe into self-driving taxi company Cruise.
The NHTSA is investigating after receiving two reports from the General Motors subsidiary of its autonomous vehicles (AVs) being involved in incidents involving pedestrians.
Two additional incidents have been identified from videos posted online, and are also being looked at.
In a statement, the NHTSA said: “The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) has received reports of incidents in which Automated Driving System (ADS) equipped vehicles operated by Cruise LLC (Cruise) may not have exercised appropriate caution around pedestrians in the roadway.
"These reports involve ADS equipped-vehicles encroaching on pedestrians present in or entering roadways, including pedestrian crosswalks, in the proximity of the intended travel path of the vehicles.”
There is concern that the issue could increase the risk of a collision with a pedestrian, which obviously has the potential to cause serious injury or even death.
One of the incidents that will be looked at occurred on Oct. 2 in San Francisco, where Cruise has a sizable fleet of driverless autonomous Chevrolet Bolts operating around the clock. A woman was apparently struck by another human-driven vehicle, before being run over by one of Cruise’s AVs.
She was then trapped under the self-driving taxi for some time before eventually being freed by firefighters.
Credit: San Francisco Fire Department
Initially, the purpose of the NHTSA investigation will be to try to establish if there is a problem, and if so how severe it is. In such a scenario, the NHTSA will also be keen to find out any causal factors.
In a statement released by Cruise, the company made clear that it would work with the agency.
“Cruise communicates regularly with NHTSA and has consistently cooperated with each of NHTSA’s requests for information –– whether associated with an investigation or not –– and we plan to continue doing so,” the statement read.
The company also defended its safety record, adding: “Cruise’s safety record over 5 million miles continues to outperform comparable human drivers at a time when pedestrian injuries and deaths are at an all-time high.”
Cruise has been on a public relations offensive in recent weeks following a tricky period that has seen some difficult headlines in San Francisco. City officials have protested against the rollout of its vehicles, claiming they cause congestion and block first responders, while the company had to cut its operating fleet in half in August following a request by the California Department of Motor Vehicles following two crashes in the city.
The NHTSA probe is not the only investigation the agency is conducting into the company’s AVs. In December last year, it was announced the NHTSA was looking into reports that self-driving taxis were engaging in “inappropriately hard braking” or becoming “immobilized” on public roads.
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