Cruise, one of the first robotaxi companies in the world, has been operating in the San Francisco area for a couple of months. The service hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but there also hasn’t been any dramatically bad or concerning news. This past week, though, Cruise (which GM is the majority owner of) rolled out a robotaxi recall in response to an incident. That said, the recall doesn’t involve stopping operations or even physically altering the cars — it just involved a software recall (aka over-the-air update), or a series of them. Oddly or surprisingly, the reason for the recall was not a recent incident but rather one that happened back in June soon after launch.
According to CNN, there was “a June crash involving ‘major’ damage and minor passenger injuries” that might have been caused by a Cruise error. “The crash occurred after the Cruise robotaxi making a left turn stopped in the intersection, thinking that an oncoming vehicle would turn in front of it. But the oncoming vehicle instead drove straight, striking the Cruise vehicle. Both the San Francisco police department and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched investigations.”
While that sounds like a clear Cruise error, more context indicates that it was more complicated than that and maybe Cruise’s judgement was not to blame. The driver had apparently been driving in the right-hand turn lane (and going 40 mph in a 25 mph zone), and then decided at the last minute to change lanes and go straight … into a Cruise robotaxi.
It’s not clear yet what those investigations discovered or concluded. Though, it may be that nothing came of the investigations and Cruise is simply acting in an extra-civic way. A Cruise statement indicated that the recall was issued “in the interest of transparency to the public.” Furthermore, a software update has already rolled out that aims to make Cruise vehicles better predict what (crazy sh*t) some other drivers will do.
Note that at no point did Cruise stop operating. “But at some point after the crash, which Cruise didn’t disclose, it disabled its vehicles’ ability to make unprotected left turns and reduced the area where its robotaxis operated. Cruise has gradually reintroduce unprotected left turns since making the software update on July 6.”
Aside from GM, Walmart, Honda, and Microsoft are also Cruise shareholders. Cruise was second only to Waymo in setting up a robotaxi service in California, and first to start charging a fare.
Any other thoughts on this interesting and somewhat unfortunate incident? The good news is that the passenger was only injured, not killed. If the latter, aside from that personal tragedy, responses to the accident would surely have been much different.
Featured image courtesy of Cruise.
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