GM-owned Cruise is hitting the pause button on all of its driverless taxi operations in order to "rebuild public trust," the company says, a move that comes two days after the California DMV ordered the company to cease operating its vehicles in San Francisco without a driver present.
Cruise made the announcement Thursday night, saying, "we have decided to proactively pause driverless operations across all of our fleets while we take time to examine our processes, systems, and tools."
"The most important thing for us right now is to take steps to rebuild public trust," the company's statement, posted on X/Twitter, said. "Part of this involves taking a hard look inwards and at how we do work at Cruise, even if it means doing things that are uncomfortable or difficult."
Cruise has seen the lion's share of bad press around the behavior of its driverless taxis in San Francisco compared to competitor Waymo, and the latest setbacks for the company come after a particularly dramatic crash scene earlier this month involving a pedestrian.
Also, as Reuters reports, Cruise's move to suspend driverless operations came after a letter was made public from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about "five new crash reports involving Cruise vehicles that braked with no obstacles ahead."
It's not clear what city or cities those crash reports came from, and the October 20 letter is seeking more information from Cruise by November 3.
In addition to operating its cars in San Francisco, Cruise also had driverless operations in Phoenix, Houston, Austin, Dallas, and Miami up until Thursday.
The company's statement said that the decision "isn't related to any new on-road incidents, and supervised AV operations will continue" in all six cities.
"We think it’s the right thing to do during a period when we need to be extra vigilant when it comes to risk, relentlessly focused on safety, & taking steps to rebuild public trust," the statement concluded.
The suspension of Cruise's permit to operate without test drivers present by the California DMV was due, the department said, to evidence that the vehicles "are not safe for the public's operation." Cruise is still permitted to take passengers in San Francisco and test its vehicles, however the cars will have to have drivers onboard — and that likely will mean a significant decrease in the vehicles' presence on SF streets in the coming weeks or months.
The DMV had earlier ordered Cruise to reduce its driverless fleet by half in San Francisco, following a couple of high-profile incidents in August.
The two highest-profile incidents with Cruise were an August 17 incident in which a passenger was injured, and an October 2 incident in which a pedestrian was severely injured. In the first incident, a Cruise vehicle had allegedly edged too far into an intersection when a fire engine was approaching, and it was struck by the fire engine, injuring a passenger in the Cruise car. In the October 2 collision at Fifth and Market streets, a female pedestrian who was struck by another car was knocked into the path of the Cruise car, and the autonomous car stopped on top of her.
The DMV further claimed that Cruise had not shared all of the footage it had from that incident, which Cruise denies. And the department said, "Cruise's vehicles may lack the ability to respond in a safe and appropriate manner during incidents involving a pedestrian."
Meanwhile, this presents an opportunity for Alphabet-owned Waymo, which continues to expand its operations in San Francisco and elsewhere, and which has not had as many high-profile incidents of misbehaving vehicles, or crashes that have caught media attention.
Both Cruise and Waymo simultaneously received authorization in mid-August from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to take passengers on driverless rides at all hours. The CPUC also suspended that authorization for Cruise on Tuesday, saying it could be reinstated once the DMV reinstates its operations permit.
Photo via Cruise