The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced that it is opening a formal safety probe into GM’s Cruise. This probe comes as the administration has received multiple accounts of autonomous robotaxi units excessively braking or blocking traffic by coming to a stop altogether.
In a report by Reuters, the NHTSA commented that while these issues seem to be unrelated, they result in the Cruise AVs becoming sudden and unexpected roadway hazards. This preliminary evaluation covers 242 units of the autonomous robotaxis, and serves as the first step before a recall is issued.
In response, Cruise LLC released a statement saying it has, “driven nearly 700,000 fully autonomous miles in an extremely complex urban environment with zero life-threatening injuries or fatalities… There’s always a balance between healthy regulatory scrutiny and the innovation we desperately need to save lives, which is why we’ll continue to fully cooperate with NHTSA or any regulator in achieving that shared goal.”
This probe comes as a result of multiple reports where Cruise AVs were struck in the rear by another vehicle following a hard braking maneuver. Additionally, the NHTSA has received several reports where Cruise vehicles became immobilized without onboard human supervision, which could leave the human occupants in danger. Back in July, a Cruise AV was also involved in an accident with injuries.
In response to that last incident, Cruise has updated its software. The NHTSA said the recalled software could “incorrectly predict” an oncoming vehicle’s path.
It’s worth noting that GM and Cruise have petitioned for permission to omit steering wheels, mirrors, turn signals and windshield wipers for some robotaxi units. This petition is still pending as of this writing.
An interesting piece to note is that Cruise recently published its first safety report, where the robotaxi service praised its first 500,000 driverless miles without major incident.