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January 26, 2024
Self-driving taxi company Cruise has confirmed that it is being investigated by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission following the October accident in San Francisco that caused operations to halt at the General Motors subsidiary.
The revelation came as Cruise published a lengthy report by law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan on the crash and the firm’s subsequent response to it.
In a blog post accompanying the publication of the report, Cruise said it was “fully cooperating” with the relevant authorities investigating the incident and acknowledged that it had “failed to live up to the justifiable expectations of regulators and the communities we serve.”
In the Oct. 2 incident, a pedestrian was struck by a human-driven Nissan, which propelled her into the path of the Cruise autonomous vehicle. She was then dragged 20 feet, worsening her injuries, as the self-driving taxi failed to come to a halt, attempting a pullover maneuver.
The AV’s response in itself was worrying, as it failed to detect the woman under the car, with the report claiming that “an alert and attentive human driver would be aware that an impact of some sort had occurred and would not have continued driving without further investigating the situation.”
However, it was the aftermath of the crash that caused greater problems for Cruise, after it was accused of withholding video footage of the incident in meetings with regulators on Oct. 3.
Determining whether the video footage was purposely withheld was one of the key elements of the independent report and according to Cruise “the evidence to date does not establish that Cruise leadership or personnel intended to deceive or mislead regulators.”
Instead, the report concludes that “internet connectivity issues” were likely to blame for the video not being seen in full in meetings with regulators and government officials, although it criticizes Cruise for failing to “augment the full video by affirmatively pointing out the pullover maneuver and dragging of the pedestrian.”
In other words, it seems that Cruise was happy for the video to speak for itself, with no supporting commentary – but those who needed to see it were unable to do so.
There is stinging criticism of the Cruise leadership team which the report says “was fixated on correcting the inaccurate media narrative that the Cruise AV, not the Nissan, had caused the accident.”
This “myopic” focus caused Cruise to convey selective, incomplete information about the crash to the media and public, omitting key details, causing both regulators and media to accuse the company of misleading them.
And in damning fashion, the report concludes: “The reasons for Cruise’s failings in this instance are numerous: poor leadership, mistakes in judgment, lack of coordination, an ‘us versus them’ mentality with regulators and a fundamental misapprehension of Cruise’s obligations of accountability and transparency to the government and the public.”
With the report urging Cruise to take decisive steps to restore trust and credibility, the company reiterated that it is “committed to increased transparency, enhanced safety and collaborative engagement with our stakeholders.”
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