General Motors-owned robotaxi outfit Cruise is offering $75,000 to "resolve" an investigation by California regulators into a gruesome October 2 crash incident involving one of its vehicles, which set off a cascade of negative impacts on the company's operations.
It's not immediately clear how common such settlement offers are, or how piddling this one is, but the California Public Utilities Commission has an ongoing investigation into an October 2 incident that was an immediate stain on the reputation of Cruise and its autonomous vehicles — regardless of which vehicle was initially at fault.
And to be clear, this is not a settlement with the victim or anything like that. As KPIX reports, the company is just making an offer to, apparently, make this particular CPUC investigation go away. And, according to CPUC records for 2022, this may be in line with the types of fines that get imposed on transportation companies — the commission only took in a total of $175,000 in fines from transportation companies in all of 2022.
This may be an attempt to speed along the process of getting its permit to operate in California restored.
In the October incident, according to early reports, a female pedestrian who was in the street at Fifth and Market when the traffic signal turned green, was knocked by one vehicle into the path of a Cruise vehicle, which then slowed down and reportedly dragged the woman some number of feet while she was pinned underneath it. We don't know the current condition of the woman, who endured an extended hospital stay.
Within three weeks, the California Department of Motor Vehicles had pulled Cruise's permit to operate without drivers behind the wheel, and days after that, Cruise suspended all driverless operations in San Francisco and the handful of other cities where it was testing its vehicles. The debacle led, directly or indirectly, to the resignation of CEO Kyle Vogt several weeks later — the same CEO Kyle Vogt who a couple months earlier had been quoted saying SF should be "rolling out the red carpet" for his and other AV companies.
Now, in some effort to move forward, Cruise is apparently hoping that they can settle this case with the CPUC and get on to other business. As KPIX notes, Cruise is also offering to share more data with commission as part of the settlement.
The company shared a statement with KPIX saying, "Cruise is committed to rebuilding trust with our regulators, increased transparency and cooperation with the CPUC, and providing the data and information the Commission needs to ensure that AV service is safe, equitable and accessible."
Cruise saw a number of layoffs last month, and a fair amount of shakeup in its executive suite. And protesters came out for a CPUC meeting in December to call for the ouster of one commission member, John Reynolds, who had been a decisive vote in giving Cruise and Waymo their full operating permits last summer, and who had previously worked as a lawyer for Cruise.
In related news, in late December, we learned that GM was suing San Francisco over a business tax bill that it says it was unfairly charged.