NEWS GM’s Cruise robotaxi unit faces safety probe after three crashes

GM's Cruise Robotaxi unit faces safety probe after three crashes

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating three crashes involving driverless taxis operated by General Motors Cruise, as the self-driving car division prepares to expand its service.

Officials are investigating Cruise vehicles that braked suddenly — leading to three crashes in which the human driver rear-ended a robot taxi — or cars that pulled over unexpectedly, according to a document released Friday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The agency said it was unclear whether there had been an accident related to the second issue.

A Cruise spokesman said cars were rarely pulled over and there were no incidents when this happened.

Cruise is expanding its robo-taxi service in San Francisco and is preparing to charge for rides in Austin, Texas, and Phoenix.

The Cruise business is an important part of GM Chief Executive Mary Barra’s quest to double revenue by 2030.

The GM-controlled start-up aims to generate $1 billion in revenue by 2025 and $50 billion by 2030.

GM shares fell 2.8 percent to $36.55 at 10:55 a.m. in New York.

The problem is how cars interact with human drivers on public roads. NHTSA is investigating whether the two issues constitute deficiencies.

In all three crashes involving sudden braking, the vehicles had a safety driver, and the car’s robotic systems were responding to aggressive or erratic human drivers in other vehicles, Crews said.

Company spokesman Drew Pusateri said self-driving cars try to minimize the severity of crashes and the risk of injury.

NHTSA said that in difficult situations for Cruise cars to move, the vehicles would turn on their hazard lights and pull over, potentially trapping passengers in unsafe places or endangering the safety of other drivers.

“These securing measures may increase the risk to disembarked passengers,” the agency said.

“Furthermore, immobility may cause other road users to make sudden or unsafe maneuvers to avoid a collision with an immobilized Cruise vehicle, for example, swerving into an oncoming lane or a cycle lane.”

In June, cruise ships closed a San Francisco intersection for more than an hour before company personnel arrived on scene and moved them.

The company says it plans to continue to expand, and that the technology is important to road safety.

“Cruise’s safety record is publicly reported and includes nearly 700,000 miles driven fully autonomously in extremely complex urban environments with zero injuries,” Pusateri said in a statement.

“This is happening against the backdrop of more than 40,000 deaths per year on U.S. roads.”

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