Cruise will reduce robotaxi fleet by 50% in San Francisco

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In an aerial view, Chevrolet Cruise autonomous vehicles sit parked in a staging area on June 08, 2023 in San Francisco, California. Autonomous vehicle companies Cruise and Waymo have been testing their vehicles throughout San Francisco and residents are not happy with the problems that the cars are bringing to the city. 

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Cruise will reduce its robotaxi fleet by 50% in San Francisco, the California Department of Motor Vehicles told CNBC.

The move comes after Cruise autonomous vehicles were involved in multiple crashes in San Francisco this week where the self-driving cars appeared to stall in intersections, including one on Thursday night when it collided with a fire truck.

The reduction is a setback for Cruise, a General Motors subsidiary, which started offering a paid robotaxi service in San Francisco after it and Alphabet’s Waymo received permission to expand driverless operations and carry paying passengers 24 hours a day all over San Francisco. Cruise is currently operating with a waitlist.

It also highlights the growing debate in San Francisco over driverless cars. Opponents say they are dangerous and interfere with firefighters and other first responders, while defenders say they are innovative and will make getting around the city cheaper and easier.

“The DMV is investigating recent concerning incidents involving Cruise vehicles in San Francisco,” a DMV spokesperson said in a statement. “The DMV is in contact with Cruise and law enforcement officials to determine the facts and requested Cruise to immediately reduce its active fleet of operating vehicles by 50% until the investigation is complete and Cruise takes appropriate corrective actions to improve road safety.”

The DMV said Cruise has agreed to the reduction and will have no more than 50 of its autonomous vehicles operating during the day and no more than 150 operating during the evening. Cruise said in August it was operating 300 cars during the night and 100 during the day.

A spokesperson for Cruise was not immediately available for comment outside of business hours.

In a blog post on Friday night, Cruises’ San Francisco general manager Greg Dietrerich wrote that the accident with a Cruise vehicle and firetruck on Thursday had “several factors” that contributed to the incident, including buildings at the intersection that are difficult to see around. He also said the firetruck was driving in the wrong lane to “bypass” a red light.

“We will continue to work in partnership with regulators and city departments on EMV interactions to reduce the likelihood of incidents like these happening again,” Dietrerich wrote.

Cruise’s fleet was involved in several incidents over the past week that drew media attention. In addition to the crash with a firetruck, one Cruise vehicle reportedly got stuck in concrete, and an autonomous vehicle with a passenger got hit by a driver. The other driver in that incident was running a red light, according to Cruise. Last weekend, a slew of Cruise vehicles stalled and slowed traffic outside an outdoor music festival.

— CNBC’s Lora Kolodny contributed to this story.

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