California DMV pulls Cruise permits

Some bumps in the road there.

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

Citing public safety concerns about Cruise‘s robotaxi line operating in San Francisco, California DMV officials announced Tuesday that the agency had suspended permits for the driverless cars deployed by General Motors’ autonomous vehicle subsidiary.

Cruise had already been under investigation by federal and state transportation officials after several crashes, some involving pedestrians. In response to the Department of Motor Vehicles’ decision, Cruise pulled its driverless vehicles from the road in California.

“Public safety remains the California DMV’s top priority, and the department’s autonomous vehicle regulations provide a framework to facilitate the safe testing and deployment of this technology on California public roads,” the agency said in a statement. “When there is an unreasonable risk to public safety, the DMV can immediately suspend or revoke permits.”

DMV officials cited violations of state regulations for the suspension, including safety issues based on the vehicles’ performance and safety information that the “manufacturer has misrepresented.” The suspension order said Cruise failed to disclose all the relevant video from an Oct. 2 crash, initially showing only the first part of the crash to investigating state officials — omitting the part in which the Cruise vehicle dragged a pedestrian about 20 feet while pinned underneath the driverless vehicle. Cruise officials, in a statement to The Times, denied that they did not share all of their video with investigators.

DMV officials said that there is no set time frame for a suspension, but that the agency provided Cruise with “the steps needed to apply to reinstate its suspended permits.” It wasn’t immediately clear what those steps would include.

The suspension does not affect Cruise’s permit for testing its autonomous vehicles with a safety driver behind the wheel, according to the DMV.

See here for more on the NHTSA investigation, which is covering some similar ground. Cruise has paused service in San Francisco for now, and they have a rollout for LA planned that may be affected, but that is unclear. They’re still operating elsewhere, including Austin and Houston. None of this changes my view of their service or of autonomous vehicles in general, which to reiterate is that I don’t think the technology is there yet, but we’ll see if either of these turn up anything more concerning. NPR and Slate, which points out another issue with Cruise and its business model, have more.

UPDATE: Cruise has now suspended all service, which means no more robotaxis in Houston for now. No word yet how long this pause will last.

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