Cruise, General Motors’ self-driving vehicle unit, disclosed today that it is the subject of two federal investigations regarding its actions after a severe accident involving a Cruise “robotaxi.”
In just the latest setback in the auto industry’s attempt to perfect driverless cars, the company is being investigated by the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to a Cruise blog post.
An investigation and report commisioned by Cruise and GM and released today found no evidence that Cruise staffers or executives lied to or misled regulators about the 2023 accident involving a pedestrian, but that they also did not volunteer details about what happened.
In meetings with regulators after the October 2 incident, Cruise officials attempted to show a full video of the impact, shot from the car. But “technical issues” prevented the regulators from seeing all of it clearly, according to the report. Cruise did not, then, point out to regulators the details of what actually happened.
When California regulators found out, later, that a Cruise vehicle had dragged a woman 20 feet across the asphalt following the impact, causing grievous injuries, Cruise’s permits to test fully autonomous vehicles in California were suspended.
Cruise later stopped all testing throughout the United States and has not resumed those operations.
Cruise’s chief executive and other executives also resigned and the company laid off nearly a quarter of its workforce shortly after the 2023 incident.
Cruise commissioned the law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan to investigate the incident and Cruise’s response to it. The report is a result of that investigation.
The investigation concluded that “The reasons for Cruise’s failings in this instance are numerous: poor leadership, mistakes in judgment, lack of coordination, an ‘us versus them’ mentality with regulators, and a fundamental misapprehension of Cruise’s obligations of accountability and transparency to the government and the public,” Cruise posted in a summary of the report.
‘Myopic focus’ over avoiding blame
Before the accident, Cruise had been a leader in developing self-driving cars. It planned to expand its so-called “robotaxis” to a dozen or more cities in 2024. Mary Barra, the CEO of GM, has said she remains focused on the self-driving future. But the incident functioned as a major setback.
Immediately after the incident, Cruise employees were not, themselves, aware that the woman had been dragged, according to the report. Initially, Cruise staffers were focused on correcting stories in the media that implied the Cruise veihicle was the first to strike the woman. Actually, the pedestrian was struck by a human-driven Nissan car first and that impact propelled her into the path of the Cruise car.
Even after people in the company became aware the woman was then dragged by the Cruise car, Cruise did not update its press statements or present the full video to reporters, according to the report.
The report attributed its failures in communication to a “myopic focus” in clearing Cruise of fault in the initial impact.
“We acknowledge that we have failed to live up to the justifiable expectations of regulators and the communities we serve,” Cruise wrote in its blog post on the report. “In doing so, we also fell woefully short of our own expectations.”
Cruise told CNN it is cooperating fully with the federal investigations but cannot comment on them.
GM’s self-driving car division is under investigation by DOJ and SEC after pedestrian dragging incident