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Transparency test: Setback as Cruise faces fines in California

Transparency test: Setback as Cruise faces fines in California
Transparency test: Setback as Cruise faces fines in California

In a challenging twist for Cruise, the General Motors-owned robotaxi company faces potential fines and sanctions in California. This comes after Cruise failed to disclose details of an accident earlier this year. 

The latest developments follow as Cruise initiated layoffs across its autonomous vehicle (AV) department, and scaled down from its aggressive multi-city approach.

Latest Cruise updates

As per a recent ruling, Cruise is now forced to “show cause, if any, why [the company] should not be fined, penalized, and receive other regulatory sanctions for failing to provide complete information […] related to an incident that occurred on October, 2.”

Cruise’s account of the incident is said to be misleading in two respects: 

  • Cruise claims to have been transparent while, in fact, withholding vital information from the Commission for 15 days.
  • Cruise misled the DMV and the Commission into thinking the original video provided showed the full extent of the incident.

Cruise was summoned to appear at a hearing scheduled for February 6, 2024. The company has until close of business on December 18 to file a verified statement. The statement must “include all facts, arguments, and legal authorities that support Cruise’s position.” 

Incident overview

According to the ruling, the incident occurred as follows: 

  • A human-driven Nissan Sentra struck a pedestrian in the crosswalk at 5th and Market Streets in San Francisco at approximately 9:30 pm. 
  • The impact caused the pedestrian to fall into the path of a driverless Cruise AV, named Panini.  
  • Panini engaged in a hard-braking maneuver but still collided with and struck the pedestrian. 
  • After coming to a complete stop, Panini attempted a pullover maneuver while the pedestrian was still under the vehicle.
  • Panini dragged the pedestrian approximately 20 feet at 7 miles per hour before coming to a complete stop. 

Jose Alvarado of Cruise, on October 3, informed the Commission of the incident. His description, however, omitted how the AV dragged the pedestrian. On October 19, Cruise provided a longer video of the incident, after failing to provide the commission with a full account for 15 days.  

Cruise’s version of the events was published on October 24, 2023. At the time, Cruise asserted to “proactively share information with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), California Public Utilities Commission, and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.”

The post has since been deleted, “out of respect to ongoing regulatory engagement.”

Leadership and strategy changes

Cruise co-founder and CEO Kyle Vogt announced his resignation in November, saying he plans to spend time with his family “and explore new ideas.” The appointment of Mo Elshenawy as CEO was announced the same day. 

Following Vogt’s departure, Cruise adopted a more ‘realistic plan’ by pausing production of its custom-built Origin shuttle. The focus then shifted to the company’s current robotaxi platform, the Chevy Bolt AV. 

Meanwhile, Elshenawy says the revised strategy involves scaling back on the multi-city approach by “re-launching in one city and proving our performance there, before expanding.” 

The bigger picture

This October 2 incident unfortunately casts doubt on the robotaxi industry. It raises concerns about public trust, which is crucial for accepting AVs. It also highlights the ongoing challenges to balance technological innovation with safety and transparency. 

Looking to the future, Cruise is planning to cautiously restart operations in a few select cities. However, rebuilding trust and achieving operational stability won’t be easy. 

The latest developments serve as a stark reminder of the fine line between pushing boundaries and adhering to regulatory standards. 

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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