The future of autonomous vehicles is under scrutiny once again as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the United States launches an investigation into General Motors’ Cruise autonomous vehicle division. The move comes in response to reports of incidents where Cruise vehicles may not have exercised the necessary caution around pedestrians on the road.
The NHTSA has voiced concerns about the reported incidents involving Cruise’s automated driving system-equipped vehicles encroaching on pedestrians in or entering roadways, even in crosswalks. Such behavior raises the risk of vehicle-pedestrian collisions, which could result in severe injuries or fatalities, according to the NHTSA.
The NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation has already received two reports of pedestrian injuries caused by Cruise vehicles and identified two more incidents from publicly available videos. The total number of relevant incidents remains uncertain, prompting the federal agency to open a formal investigation.
Cruise, a prominent player in the autonomous vehicle industry, has defended its safety record, stating that it has outperformed human drivers over 5 million miles. Cruise spokesperson Hannah Lindow emphasized their commitment to cooperation with the NHTSA, stating that they have consistently provided requested information, whether related to investigations or not. The company is determined to continue doing so.
The investigation aims to determine the scope and severity of the issue, including factors related to autonomous driving policies and performance around pedestrians. The NHTSA seeks to comprehensively assess potential safety risks associated with Cruise’s autonomous vehicle operations.
Cruise has previously been the subject of regulatory investigation. The business decided to cut back on the number of robotaxis it had in San Francisco in August following two crash events, one of which had a Cruise vehicle without a human driver crashing into an emergency vehicle. The investigation highlights the difficulties and obligations associated with creating and implementing autonomous vehicles, as businesses such as Cruise continue to negotiate the path toward self-driving mobility while maintaining safety as the first priority.