NHTSA investigating Cruise

Of interest.

A driverless Cruise car sits in traffic on Austin Street in downtown Houston on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. Photo: Jay R. Jordan/Axios

U.S. regulators are investigating General Motors’ Cruise autonomous vehicle division after receiving reports of incidents where vehicles may not have used proper caution around pedestrians in roadways.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that the reports involve automated driving system equipped vehicles encroaching on pedestrians present in or entering roadways, including crosswalks. This could raise the risk of a vehicle striking a pedestrian, which could result in severe injury or death, according to the NHTSA.

The NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation said that it’s received two reports involving pedestrian injuries from Cruise vehicles. It’s also identified two additional incidents from videos posted to public websites. The office said the total number of relevant pedestrian incidents is unknown. It opened an investigation on Monday.

“Cruise’s safety record over 5 million miles continues to outperform comparable human drivers at a time when pedestrian injuries and deaths are at an all-time high,” Cruise spokesperson Hannah Lindow said in a prepared statement. “Cruise communicates regularly with NHTSA and has consistently cooperated with each of NHTSA’s requests for information –– whether associated with an investigation or not –– and we plan to continue doing so.”

The ODI said its investigation is being opened to help determine the scope and severity of the potential problem, including causal factors that may relate to ADS driving policies and performance around pedestrians, and to fully assess the potential safety risks.

Reuters adds a bit more detail.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said has received two reports from Cruise of incidents in which pedestrians were injured, and identified two further incidents via videos posted on websites.

NHTSA said the reports suggest Cruise vehicles are “encroaching on pedestrians present in or entering roadways, including pedestrian crosswalks, in the proximity of the intended travel path of the vehicles,” and the issue “could increase the risk of a collision with a pedestrian, which may result in severe injury or death.”

One incident occurred Oct 2 in San Francisco in which a pedestrian was struck by a hit-and-run driver, thrown into an adjacent lane and hit a second time by a Cruise robotaxi, which was not able to stop in time and trapped the pedestrian for a period of time.

NHTSA’s preliminary evaluation covers about 594 Cruise vehicles and is the first step before the agency could seek to force a recall.

Unclear to me how that will affect the current rollout of Cruise service, though one presumes that if it comes to a recall there will be a pause. I’ve said that I’m still distrustful of the current technology, but as I’ve seen noted elsewhere, if a root cause to whatever happened with these incidents can be identified, the fix can be applied across the entire fleet all at once. There’s nothing close to a human equivalent for that. Anyone tried one of these things yet? Leave a comment and let us know. The Chron has more.

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