Autonomous vehicle (AV) advocates tout safety as one of the technology’s greatest benefits, stating that unlike human drivers, autonomous vehicles can’t drive inebriated, tired, or distracted. In a recent advertisement, GM’s autonomous vehicle technology division, Cruise, focused on the potential safety benefits of AVs while citing car crash fatality figures. Now, however, the advertisement has been criticized by a former NHTSA administrator.
Per a report from Automotive News, Cruise recently ran a one-page ad in The New York Times and several other prominent newspapers claiming that “humans are terrible drivers,” stating that while human pilots cause millions of road accidents every year in the U.S., Cruise AVs “are designed to save lives.” The ad also includes 2022 U.S. crash fatality figures.
Now, former NHTSA administrator Joan Claybrook has come out against the new Cruise ad, saying in a statement distributed by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety that the company was acting unethically.
“Using the pain and suffering of those deaths for self-promotion of an unproven and unsafe product is unscrupulous,” Claybrook states.
The recent Cruise advert comes at a critical time for the company as the NHTSA gears up to issue a decision as to whether or not the fully autonomous Cruise Origin robotaxi will be allowed to operate on public roads. Although Cruise already operates a fleet of autonomous-tech-upgraded Chevy Bolt EVs, Cruise Origin does not incorporate any human controls (steering wheel, mirrors, windshield wipers, etc.), and as such, the NHTSA will decide if a vehicle operated by computers is required to comply with the same safety standards as human-operated vehicles with regard to human-pilot-related equipment.
Cruise currently offers driverless rides in San Francisco, and has begun testing similar services in Phoenix and Austin. Cruise also recently celebrated 3 million driverless miles traveled. However, Claybrook cites incidents where autonomous vehicles have been involved in accidents or roadway disruptions as evidence that the technology is not ready for the public.
As GM Authority has covered previously, a Cruise passenger was hospitalized last year after a collision with an oncoming Toyota Prius, while the NHTSA opened a probe into Cruise last December following a series of crashes reported from brake timing issues. Cruise vehicles have also reportedly blocked first responders.