The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened a probe into an unknown number of incidents where Cruise robotaxis allegedly encroached on pedestrians, in the wake of one SF Cruise car running over a hit-and-run victim.
There appears to be more fallout over the October 2 incident where a Cruise self-driving robotaxi ran over and stopped on top of a pedestrian at Fifth and Market streets. The Associated Press reported Tuesday morning that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened an investigation into Cruise robotaxi incidents involving pedestrians, now bringing federal regulators into the mix of government agencies putting more scrutiny on the performance of these self-driving cars.
There’s not much publicly known about this probe — the only information we have is a brief two-page investigation report from the NHTSA Office of Defects Investigation. That document says the Cruise vehicles “may not have exercised appropriate caution around pedestrians in the roadway," and "These reports involve (Automated Driving System) equipped vehicles encroaching on pedestrians present in or entering roadways, including pedestrian crosswalks, in the proximity of the intended travel path of the vehicles."
CNBC confirms that one of the incidents being investigated is indeed that October 2 pedestrian incident on Fifth Street, and another is some sort of pedestrian collision on August 26. Both incidents happened in San Francisco.
“Currently, the total number of relevant pedestrian incidents is unknown,” the report says. But it also notes there are “additional relevant incidents with videos posted to public websites.”
Cruise acknowledged the investigation in a statement that reiterates that they think their cars are still safer than human-driven cars.
"Cruise's safety record over five million miles continues to outperform comparable human drivers at a time when pedestrian injuries and deaths are at an all-time high," Cruise spokesperson Hannah Lindow said in a statement to the AP. "Cruise communicates regularly with NHTSA and has consistently cooperated with each of NHTSA's requests for information — whether associated with an investigation or not — and we plan to continue doing so."
We may have seen a turning point since Cruise (and rival Waymo) got that big early August approval for unlimited SF expansion from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Barely a week after that approval, the state DMV ordered Cruise to cut their SF fleet in half. Cruise also made a big deal about their recent software upgrades to improve handling around emergency vehicles, likely in response to recent bad press. And now there's this new federal investigation that could mean another round of bad press for the robotaxis.
Image: @TaylorOgan via Twitter