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Cruise sidelines entire US robotaxis fleet

Following California’s withdrawal of Cruise’s permit to operate self-driving cars in the state, the company announced Friday that it was suspending all robotaxi operations in the United States.

The move comes after the California Department of Motor Vehicles alleged that Cruise hid video footage from regulators of a Cruise robo-taxi dragging a person down a city street.

The future of the company is anyone’s guess. Its parent company, General Motors, has lost $1.9 billion on Cruise so far this year, including a $732 million loss in the third quarter, according to its latest earnings report. Rival Ford closed its Argo robotaxi unit in 2002, concluding that the chance of making distant profits was not worth the huge cash drain.

The California DMV gave two reasons for suspending Cruise’s license this week: concerns about safety and claims that the company hid video footage from regulators showing Cruise’s robotaxi dragging an already injured woman 20 feet across the sidewalk before rescuers could reach him.

“The most important thing for us right now is to take steps to restore public trust. » Cruise said in an online statement Thursday evening. “Part of that involves taking a hard look at ourselves and how we work at Cruise.”

Cruise vehicles with humans at the wheel will continue to operate.

Contacted for comment, Cruise referred to his online statement. The DMV has not yet responded to a request for comment.

The incident marks a dark chapter in the burgeoning history of the automated vehicle industry. Whether Cruise’s actions will harm the industry’s reputation, or just his own, remains to be seen.

On October 2, a car with a human behind the wheel struck a woman crossing at the intersection of 5th and Market streets in San Francisco against a red light. The pedestrian slipped over the hood and found himself in the path of a Cruise robotaxi, without a human driver. She became trapped under the car and was later taken to hospital.

Cruise quickly called the accident tragic, but said the robotaxi stopped like it was supposed to and a human driver couldn’t have reacted as quickly.

What Cruise didn’t say, and what the DMV revealed Tuesday, was that after remaining stationary for an unspecified period of time, the robotaxi began moving forward at about 7 mph, dragging the woman with it over 20 feet.

Cruise showed video of the incident to journalists but banned them from publishing it publicly. (Because of this restriction, the Times declined Cruise’s offer.) The video shown to reporters ended with the robo-taxi standing still, but did not include the vehicle dragging the woman.

The DMV said Cruise showed it the same shortened video and only later did the agency see the full version. Both sides argue over this version of events. Cruise told reporters he showed the DMV the full video from the beginning.

Controversy has surrounded the company for months, after San Francisco’s fire chief attacked Cruise and another robotaxi company, Waymo, for interfering with fire trucks and emergency work. Police said robo-taxis were also bothering them.

Nonetheless, the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates taxi fares, voted to support a massive expansion of robotaxi service in San Francisco. Cruise Chief Executive Kyle Vogt quickly began talking about big plans for explosive growth, including next year’s introduction of a steering-less, six-passenger capsule-like vehicle called Origin.

Waymo has already launched in Santa Monica and will soon expand to Los Angeles, with other robotaxi companies expected to follow. Los Angeles officials are trying to closely examine the company’s plans, but are blocked by state law that gives cities little authority over robo-taxi operations.

Los Angeles Times

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