Red light for robotaxis as California suspends Cruise's license to self-drive

Indefinite ban due to 'public safety'

Updated California's Department of Motor Vehicles has rescinded GM-owned Cruise's right to roam the streets with its self-driving cars, citing public safety and accusing the biz of withholding information.

"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 DMV said in a statement.

"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 agency said the AI-controlled taxis are "not safe for the public's operation," although just last month the agency gave the green light for their use on the streets of San Francisco. It also accused Cruise of misrepresenting the capabilities and safety data of their cars to regulators.

There is one spot of good news for Cruise; cars with a human safety driver behind the wheel can still operate. However, that rather defeats the whole point of the biz's self-driving vehicle project - getting rid of the driver - although useful training data can be gathered while roaming the streets of California cities with a person at the wheel.

The DMV says it has given Cruise a series of steps it must complete "to the department's satisfaction" before the license to operate is renewed.

The agency allowed the use of the robotaxis in June last year but started to get cold feet about Cruise after a rash of incidents involving the computer-controlled cabs, cutting the size of its fleet this August. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has also launched an investigation after two such accidents involving pedestrians in San Francisco – one of whom at least was run over by a Cruise vehicle after being knocked down in a hit-and-run by a human motorist.

The Register has asked Cruise (and Waymo, which also operates two self-driving test sites in California) for comment and will update if we hear back. ®

Updated to add

Cruise has released a breakdown of an incident involving one of its autonomous vehicles (AVs) and a San Franciscan that the DMV is investigating – the crash in which someone was run over after being hit by another car.

"We learned today at 1030 PT of the California DMV’s suspension of our driverless permits. As a result, we will be pausing operations of our driverless AVs in San Francisco," a spokesperson told The Register.

"In the incident being reviewed by the DMV, a human hit-and-run driver tragically struck and propelled the pedestrian into the path of the AV. The AV braked aggressively before impact and because it detected a collision, it attempted to pull over to avoid further safety issues. When the AV tried to pull over, it continued before coming to a final stop, pulling the pedestrian forward.

"Our thoughts continue to be with the victim as we hope for a rapid and complete recovery.

"Shortly after the incident, our team proactively shared information with the California DMV, CPUC, and NHTSA, including the full video. We have stayed in close contact with regulators to answer their questions and assisted the police with identifying the vehicle of the hit and run driver. Our teams are currently doing an analysis to identify potential enhancements to the AV’s response to this kind of extremely rare event."

Waymo declined to comment.

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