SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California regulators have revoked the license of a robotaxi service owned by General Motors after determining its driverless cars that recently began transporting passengers throughout San Francisco are a dangerous menace.
The DMV in California has temporarily halted the Cruise robotaxi service, which follows the recent approval by the Public Utilities Commission to expand the service for 24/7 rides in San Francisco, the second most densely populated city in the country.
The approval was met with a lot of objections, including from police and fire officials who claimed that the driverless cars were causing traffic issues during emergency situations while being tested.
According to a statement from the agency, Cruise is now being required to abruptly stop its operations due to the DMV’s determination that its robotaxis present a danger to public safety.
The DMV did not provide details about why the suspension occurred, but it follows a string of incidents that raised concerns about the dangers and disruptions caused by Cruise’s self-driving taxis. These concerns were heightened after a recent incident where a Cruise taxi hit a pedestrian who had already been struck by a human-driven vehicle, and then trapped the pedestrian under one of its tires.
Cruise released a statement stating that it has stopped its robotaxi services in San Francisco. They also mentioned that they are collaborating with state and federal regulators as they investigate the Oct. 2 incident involving a robotaxi named “Panini” and a pedestrian who sustained critical injuries. The pedestrian had to be rescued from under the robotaxi using the “jaws of life” before being transported to a nearby hospital. Cruise added that their team is analyzing the accident and developing ways to enhance their robotaxi’s reaction to such infrequent situations.
While under suspension, Cruise will still have the ability to use their vehicles in autonomous mode. However, a person will be required to sit in the driver’s seat to intervene if any issues arise. This precaution has been utilized by numerous companies in California for many years to test autonomous driving technology.
During Cruise’s absence in San Francisco, Waymo’s robotaxi has remained in operation, providing rides across the city. Waymo, which was initially a confidential project at Google over ten years ago, has also been offering a robotaxi service in Phoenix for the last three years. While Waymo’s robotaxis have not been involved in any significant accidents in San Francisco, there have been instances where the vehicles have suddenly stopped, causing traffic delays in the city.
The suspension in California is a major setback for GM and its ambitious plans for Cruise. GM has projected that Cruise will bring in $1 billion in revenue by 2025, a significant increase from its revenue of $106 million in the previous year, during which it incurred losses of nearly $2 billion. Cruise is currently conducting tests for its robotaxi service in Los Angeles, where there have been protests against it, as well as in Phoenix and Austin, Texas.
During a conference call on Tuesday, GM CEO Mary Barra praised Cruise and their autonomous vehicles (AVs) as a significant advancement for the future of transportation, before California regulators took action against the company.
Barra stated that Cruise is consistently improving safety while pushing the limits of AV technology, as it strives to bring advancements to society.
However, it seems that Cruise’s self-driving taxis were facing issues even before the sudden suspension on Tuesday. A group of these vehicles unexpectedly stopped and caused a traffic jam on a Friday night in a heavily populated area of San Francisco, just two days after receiving permission to expand their services in the city. As a result, local leaders have taken steps to overturn the Public Utilities Commission’s decision that permitted Cruise to offer autonomous rides across the city for a fee.
After the expansion, issues arose which led the DMV to request that Cruise reduce its driverless fleet in San Francisco by half. The company agreed to comply with this request.
San Francisco’s City Attorney, David Chiu, commended the DMV for their suspension and urged the Public Utilities Commission to reconsider their decision to permit an uncontrolled growth. He stressed the importance of the commission creating a well-thought-out strategy for the future, taking into account safety and performance standards.