GM’s Cruise recalling 950 robotaxis after pedestrian collision

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Cruise, the autonomous vehicle venture owned by General Motors, has issued a recall effecting 950 of its robotaxis following a pedestrian collision in San Francisco last month.

Previously, the company had grounded all of its driverless operations following the Oct. 2 collision during which a pedestrian was thrown into the path of the Cruise robotaxi by a human driver in a different car who hit her first.

The Cruise autonomous vehicle braked aggressively before impact and then tried to pull over to the side of the road, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration filing and prior statements from the company. In the process, the vehicle dragged the pedestrian forward about 20 feet. 

The Oct. 2 collision triggered a federal probe. The collision, along with Cruise’s disclosures around it, led to California regulators stripping the company of its permits to operate driverless vehicles in the state, unless there is a human safety driver aboard.

Rival Waymo, which is owned by Google parent company Alphabet, continues to operate driverless fleets in and beyond California.

According to the Cruise filing with the NHTSA on Nov. 7, following the collision, Cruise found defects within its automated driving system software, specifically pertaining to its “Collision Detection Subsystem.”

Cruise wrote in the filing to the federal vehicle safety agency: “In certain circumstances, a collision may occur, after which the Collision Detection Subsystem may cause the Cruise AV to attempt to pull over out of traffic instead of remaining stationary when a pullover is not the desired post-collision response. This issue could occur after a collision with a pedestrian positioned low on the ground in the path of the AV.”

In a separate blog post Wednesday, Cruise said that besides implementing the voluntary recall, the company is now conducting a search to hire a chief safety officer. Louise Zhang, vice president of safety and systems at Cruise, is serving as interim chief safety officer, overseeing the company’s safety reviews and investigations per the company statement.

Cruise has initiated third-party reviews of the Oct. 2 incident relying on a law firm well-known for its work on behalf of Tesla and Elon Musk, Quinn Emanuel, alongside engineering consulting firm Exponent.

After Cruise lost its permits in California and faced a public backlash over safety concerns, the company also temporarily suspended production of its Cruise Origin driverless vans. Cruise and GM had planned to produce a low volume of these autonomous shuttles in Detroit. Unveiled in 2020, the Origin has no steering wheel or acceleration pedal, and seats six passengers.

GM said last month that the company has lost roughly $1.9 billion on Cruise between January and September this year, including $732 million in the third quarter alone.

What it's really like to ride in Cruise and Waymo robotaxis on San Francisco streets

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