US Agency Probes Pedestrian Risks at GM’s Self-Driving Unit Cruise
Auto Safety Regulators Investigate Cruise’s Precautions for Pedestrian Safety
US auto safety regulators have initiated an investigation into whether General Motors’ self-driving unit Cruise is taking adequate precautions to protect pedestrians from its autonomous robotaxis. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) stated that it has received two reports of pedestrian injuries involving Cruise vehicles and identified two more incidents through online videos. According to the reports, Cruise vehicles may pose a risk to pedestrians by encroaching on their path, potentially leading to severe injury or death.
Incidents Prompt Preliminary Evaluation
NHTSA’s preliminary evaluation will cover approximately 594 Cruise vehicles, marking the initial step before the agency could potentially issue a recall. The evaluation was triggered by incidents such as an October 2nd case in San Francisco, where a pedestrian was struck by a hit-and-run driver and subsequently hit by a Cruise robotaxi. The robotaxi was unable to stop in time, trapping the pedestrian for a period. This investigation adds to the separate safety probe initiated by NHTSA in December, which focused on the autonomous driving system in Cruise vehicles following reports of rear-end crashes resulting in injuries.
Cruise’s Commitment to Collaboration
Cruise, on the other hand, maintains its commitment to cooperating with NHTSA and providing the requested information. The company communicates regularly with the agency and has consistently complied with their requests. In February 2022, Cruise submitted a petition seeking permission to deploy up to 2,500 self-driving vehicles annually without human controls. NHTSA, which plans to make a decision soon, stated that the petition is still under review.
Concerns and Compliance
These investigations into Cruise’s autonomous vehicles extend beyond NHTSA’s involvement. In August, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) launched an investigation into incidents involving Cruise in San Francisco, including a collision with an emergency vehicle. As a result, the DMV asked Cruise to remove half of its robotaxis from the roads, a request the company promptly fulfilled. Despite the ongoing scrutiny, Cruise believes that its self-driving technology presents a significant growth opportunity for General Motors, with a projected annual revenue of $50 billion by 2030.
While the investigation continues, Cruise and other autonomous vehicle companies face the challenge of ensuring pedestrian safety as they advance their technologies. As regulators strive to strike a balance between innovation and public well-being, the future of self-driving vehicles remains a topic of significant interest and concern.