The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has initiated a new investigation into Cruise, the self-driving subsidiary of General Motors, following reports of pedestrian injuries involving its autonomous vehicles. This marks the second investigation within a year, raising questions about the safety of self-driving technology.
NHTSA Scrutinizing Pedestrian Safety
The NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation is focusing on whether Cruise is taking adequate precautions to ensure pedestrian safety in the vicinity of its self-driving vehicles. Recent incident reports reveal instances of Cruise cars “encroaching on pedestrians present in or entering roadways, including pedestrian crosswalks, in the proximity of the intended travel path of the vehicles.”
Incident Reports Raise Concerns
In addition to the reports submitted by Cruise, the NHTSA identified two other incidents related to Cruise vehicles through online videos. One incident occurred just over two weeks ago in San Francisco, where a pedestrian was initially hit by a hit-and-run driver and subsequently struck by a Cruise vehicle. The exact number of such incidents remains unknown.
Cruise, in response to the investigation, stated that it routinely engages in discussions with the NHTSA to address inquiries from the regulatory agency. The company emphasizes its commitment to safety but acknowledges the necessity of balancing regulatory scrutiny with the ongoing innovation in autonomous technology.
Background of Previous Investigations
This latest investigation follows a prior NHTSA probe opened in December, prompted by three incident reports of Cruise vehicles being rear-ended due to abrupt braking. At that time, the NHTSA expressed concerns that these vehicles “may engage in inappropriately hard braking or become immobilized.” Cruise pledged cooperation with the NHTSA and other regulatory bodies.
California DMV’s Involvement
The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) also launched an investigation in August after a Cruise vehicle collided with an emergency vehicle in San Francisco. During this investigation, Cruise committed to reducing its fleet by 50%, operating a maximum of 50 autonomous cars during the day and up to 150 at night.
The Safety Debate
In response to the investigation, Hannah Lindow, a spokesperson for Cruise, highlighted the company’s safety record, claiming it surpasses that of human drivers, especially during a time when pedestrian injuries and fatalities are on the rise.
Investigating a Large Fleet
The NHTSA’s preliminary evaluation includes approximately 594 Cruise Automated Driving System-equipped cars, signifying the scale of the inquiry into Cruise’s safety practices.