Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt has addressed criticism regarding the company’s fully autonomous robotaxi technology, characterizing the criticism as “sensationalized.” Vogt’s statements follow Cruise’s rapid expansion across multiple U.S. cities, as well as a series of high-profile incidents involving the Cruise robotaxis. Meanwhile, critics say that without more oversight, incidents involving autonomous vehicles will only increase and may lead to serious harm.
In a recent interview with The Washington Post, Vogt said that while Cruise autonomous vehicles have been involved in some incidents, the reaction to these incidents tends to be overblown.
“Anything that we do differently than humans is being sensationalized,” Vogt said.
“No one has even been seriously hurt across several million miles of driving and hundreds of thousands of rides provided in San Francisco,” he added.
Cruise is headquartered in San Francisco, and first deployed its driverless robotaxi technology on the San Francisco’s public roads. San Francisco is considered a good test of the company’s AV technology due to the winding, hilly nature of the streets.
The company now has more than 400 units of its autonomous Chevy Bolt EV test vehicles operating across the country, recently expanding operations to Las Vegas, Washington D.C., Seattle, Raleigh, Charlotte, Atlanta, and Miami. The company is currently accumulating more than 1 million driverless miles per month across its fleet, recently crossing the 4-million-mile mark in August.
Nevertheless, Cruise has faced considerable criticism as the result of several high-profile incidents, including reportedly causing traffic jams and colliding with a fire truck. In light of these incidents, the California Department of Motor Vehicles recently ordered Cruise to reduce its fleet size in San Francisco by 50 percent while an investigation takes place.
Vogt, however, maintains these incidents do not warrant the dramatic reaction seen from critics.
“We’re talking about a 15-minute traffic delay for something that, on the other hand, is providing a massive and quite measurable public benefit to the community.”
Cruise was recently criticized in an internal San Francisco Fire Department report in which one first responder stated that Cruise robotaxis blocked an ambulance from transporting a patient to a hospital after the victim was struck by a human-piloted Muni bus. Cruise denies the allegations, saying it has proprietary video proof captured by the Cruise AVs at the scene demonstrating that no obstruction took place, and the SF fire chief later made a statement clarifying that it was not the judgement of the fire department or the fire chief that Cruise AVs contributed to the poor patient outcome in that particular incident.