“Not safe for the public’s operation.”
By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.
Back on August 10, amid a noisy public backlash in San Francisco from City officials on down that made its way around the global internet, the California Public Utilities Commission voted to allow GM’s Cruise and Alphabet’s Waymo to charge riders for driverless robotaxi service, day and night, anywhere in San Francisco, with no cap on fleet sizes, and with no safety driver in the vehicle.
While these driverless vehicles perform amazingly well – for example, they don’t run amok through the streets – they have been involved in some high-profile accidents, mishaps, and goofball stuff that only AI can do, with Cruise having been on the forefront with these incidents.
Then a week of accidents and incidents later – which again duly made their way around the global internet as anything with San Francisco in the headline does – the California Department of Motor Vehicles ordered Cruise to cut its fleet of robotaxis operating in San Francisco in half. That was the first strike.
Today came the second strike: The DMV announced that it has suspended, “effective immediately,” the permits of Cruise to operate autonomous vehicles in San Francisco.
Cruise can still test the vehicles in the City, but they now must again have a safety driver behind the steering wheel — sort of like being re-issued a learner’s permit after having failed the driving test.
Referring to California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 13, paragraphs 228 and 227, the DMV cited in the statement these bases for the suspension:
- “Based upon the performance of the vehicles, the Department determines the manufacturer’s vehicles are not safe for the public’s operation.”
- “The manufacturer has misrepresented any information related to safety of the autonomous technology of its vehicles.”
The DMV said: “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. When there is an unreasonable risk to public safety, the DMV can immediately suspend or revoke permits. There is no set time for a suspension.”
The DMV also said that it “has provided Cruise with the steps needed to apply to reinstate its suspended permits, which the DMV will not approve until the company has fulfilled the requirements to the department’s satisfaction.”
Waymo’s robotaxis doing OK. The DMV’s suspension of Cruise’s permits is not a judgment on all robotaxis – just on the ones that don’t know what they’re doing? Alphabet’s Waymo can still operate its fleet of autonomous robotaxis in the City without safety driver, and fully commercializing its operation.
Our own vehicle not doing OK. Meanwhile, our vehicle got rear-ended hard in September, hard enough to get shoved into the vehicle in front, and the driver-side airbags deployed. The insurance company determined that the vehicle was totaled, but unfortunately, no robotaxis were involved, and we couldn’t blame Cruise, just human drivers doing what human drivers do: Cause accidents, lots of accidents, and 40,000 Americans get killed in a year by human drivers.
But when it’s a Cruise that runs over a firehose or gets stuck in concrete, it becomes global news? OK, maybe the DMV can teach those cowboys over at Cruise a lesson so that they can get their act together.
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