Cruise’s self-driving tech faces scrutiny from safety regulators TechCrunch
US security regulators have opened a preliminary investigation into the axis robot developed and operated by GM’s self-driving subsidiary Cruise.
The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration said it launched the investigation after learning of incidents in which these robots “may have engaged in inappropriate hard braking or come to a stop while traveling on the public road”. The preliminary survey covers all cruising AVs.
Reuters was the first to report the official security investigation.
Cruise has received the appropriate approvals from California regulators to operate and charge for driverless rides in certain areas of San Francisco. The company is awaiting the last remaining approval from the state Public Utilities Commission to expand its service area to all of San Francisco.
As Cruise has ramped up its driverless operations, public attention has also increased. While many videos and posts focus on the thrill of riding in a driverless car, not all public material has been positive. Numerous videos and images have been posted on social media, Reddit and other public forums documenting Cruise’s robotaxis apparently stuck in intersections and blocking traffic in San Francisco.
However, NHTSA was not made aware of the hard braking events via social media. Cruise reported the events via the agency’s general standing order, which requires manufacturers to report certain accidents involving vehicles equipped with automated driving systems or SAE Level 2 advanced driver assistance systems. This is NHTSA’s third investigation into a developer of automated driving systems; the first two were for Pony.ai (a callback request and an audit request), according to the agency. There have been several investigations into Tesla’s advanced driver assistance system.
NHTSA said three hard braking crashes were reported by Cruise through the general standing order. Two accidents resulted in injuries. Cruise said that in all three incidents the vehicle was supervised, meaning there was a trained security operator behind the wheel. None of the incidents resulted in citations to the police, according to the company.
Cruise also said he had previously met with NHTSA to discuss each of the events mentioned in their filing, and provided the agency with briefings and requested information. The agency said the investigation was launched to determine the extent and severity of the potential problem and fully assess the potential security issues posed by these two types of incidents.
“Cruise’s safety record is made public and includes having traveled nearly 700,000 miles fully autonomous in an extremely complex urban environment without any injuries or fatalities,” Cruise spokeswoman Hannah Lindow wrote in a statement. emailed to TechCrunch. “This against the backdrop of more than 40,000 deaths each year on American roads. There is always a balance between sound regulatory control and the innovation we desperately need to save lives, which is why we will continue to cooperate fully with NHTSA or any other regulator to achieve this common goal.
Lindlow noted that in each of these cases, the robotaxi predicted and reacted to the behavior of aggressive or erratic road actors, and worked to minimize the severity of collisions and the risk of injury.
NHTSA did not provide additional information on the immobilized cruise vehicle cases. However, Cruise told TechCrunch that the company designed its technology to err on the side of caution. Whenever the technology is not extremely sure how to proceed, the vehicle turns on the hazard warning lights and comes to a safe stop. If necessary, Cruise personnel are physically dispatched to retrieve the vehicle as quickly as possible, the company said, adding that this is rare and has not resulted in collisions.
The robotaxi may come to a standstill because a door is left open, there is a problem with the vehicle’s hardware or software, or there is an unusual external event on the road such as a spontaneous firework display on the street, according to the company. A spokesperson said the company communicates with the CPUC and the state Department of Motor Vehicles, the agency that regulates self-driving vehicles, about how, why and when it does so.
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