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Cruise appoints new chief safety officer after recent controversies

Cruise appoints Steve Kenner as new chief safety officer
Cruise appoints Steve Kenner as new chief safety officer

Cruise appointed industry veteran Steve Kenner as the company’s first-ever chief safety officer. Kenner has an extensive background in autonomous vehicle safety. He has been tasked to steer Cruise through its current tumult. 

Kenner’s appointment comes in the wake of a robo-taxi incident that thrust Cruise into the limelight for all the wrong reasons. The incident ignited widespread scrutiny of its safety measures and crisis management. 

Fresh start for Cruise’s safety initiatives

Kenner’s previous roles in the autonomous vehicle industry are poised to shape Cruise’s safety culture. He has nearly four decades of experience in engineering and automotive safety, starting at General Motors as an engineer in 1978.

His experience since then includes: 

  • Engineering director at Chrysler from 1992 to 2004
  • At Ford from 2004 to 2011.
    • Global director of Automotive Safety.
    • Engineering director.
    • Chief engineer.
  • Director of product integrity at Apple. (2015 to 2019)
  • Director of product safety engineering at Uber. (2019 to 2021)
  • Chief product and safety officer, and vice president of safety at Locomation. (2021 to 2022) 
  • Vice president of safety at Kodiak Robotics. (2023 to 2024)

Cruise said in a statement Kenner “brings the perfect blend of experience in AV and automotive safety excellence to help deliver on these important priorities.”

Learning from past missteps

Cruise acknowledges that it must “ improve overall safety performance and work to build trust with regulators, other government officials and our communities.”

Meanwhile, company president and chief technology officer, Mo Elshenawy, says safety governance is a “critical gating factor” for getting Cruise robo-taxis back on the road. “Safety is a mindset every engineer and employee throughout Cruise embraces, and that greater accountability will be developed through [Kenner’s] expert leadership.” 

The focus on safety follows after a 195-page report from law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan uncovered instances of poor leadership and a diversion from standard practices regarding the October 2023 incident.

A pedestrian was struck by a human-driven vehicle. The force propelled the pedestrian into the path of a Cruise robo-taxi named Panini, which was at a complete stop at a red light. CEO Kyle Vogt resigned shortly after the incident.

‘Leadership lapses’

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan carried out an internal investigation to see if Cruise submitted the required information to regulators. The 195-page report found that the robo-taxi company’s “failings are numerous,” including:

  • Poor leadership.
  • Lack of coordination. 
  • Mistakes in judgment.
  • ‘Us versus them’ mentality. 
  • Misapprehension of accountability.

Despite finding that Cruise didn’t seek to “intentionally mislead regulators,” it said the company could have been more forthcoming in its verbal explanations of the incident. Cruise management merely stated that the video of the incident “speaks for itself.” 

NOW READ: Cruise under fire: Investigation reveals leadership lapses

About the author

Cheryl has contributed to various international publications, with a fervor for data and technology. She explores the intersection of emerging tech trends with logistics, focusing on how digital innovations are reshaping industries on a global scale. When she's not dissecting the latest developments in AI-driven innovation and digital solutions, Cheryl can be found gaming, kickboxing, or navigating the novel niches of consumer gadgetry.

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