Cruise is being investigated after robotaxi dragged pedestrian

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General Motors’ driverless Cruise division is facing investigations by both the Department of Justice (DoJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) following an October 2023 incident in which a jaywalking pedestrian was struck by an autonomous Cruise vehicle and then dragged 20 feet, exacerbating her injuries.  

The probes come as Cruise itself released findings yesterday regarding the incident, which also involved another vehicle. The company acknowledged it “failed to live up to the justifiable expectations of regulators and the communities we serve… [and] also fell woefully short of our own expectations,” adding that it’s “fully cooperating” with investigators. 

According to a third-party report (PDF) from law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, Cruise withheld crucial details about the incident during a briefing with officials.

Specifically, Cruise allegedly failed to disclose that – after the initial collision – its autonomous vehicle dragged the victim for 20 feet before stopping, causing serious injuries. This occurred because the vehicle wrongly sensed a side-impact crash and attempted to pull over rather than braking.

The report says Cruise showed a video for regulators “depicting only a portion of the accident but did not show the pullover manoeuvre and pedestrian dragging.”

At least 100 Cruise employees were reportedly aware the vehicle had dragged the victim, including senior leadership, legal counsel and more. But none disclosed this during meetings the next day with San Francisco’s mayor, NHTSA, DMV, and other authorities.

The findings blast Cruise’s “poor leadership, mistakes in judgement, lack of coordination, an ‘us versus them’ mentality with regulators, and a fundamental misapprehension of Cruise’s obligations of accountability and transparency to the government and the public.”

Kyle Vogt, former CEO of Cruise, resigned in the wake of the company’s safety problems along with other key figures. Vogt has revealed that Cruise’s autonomous vehicles were struggling to recognise children and frequently required human intervention during trips.

Cruise owner General Motors issued a statement following Vogt’s resignation in November 2023 in which it stood by the company’s mission.

“GM has made a bold commitment to autonomous vehicle technology because we believe in the profound, positive impact it will have on societies, including saving countless lives,” the company wrote in the statement.

“We believe strongly in Cruise’s mission and the transformative technology it is developing. We fully support the actions that Cruise leadership is taking to ensure that it is putting safety first and building trust and credibility with government partners, regulators, and the broader community.”

Cruise had its California operating license suspended in October. Beyond the federal probes, the driverless firm also faces a lawsuit from San Francisco itself over the incident.

(Image Credit: Cruise)

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