A report filed this week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened up another investigation into GM’s robo-taxi company, Cruise. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has received multiple reports of Cruise’s self-driving electric vehicles blocking roads and stopping suddenly, causing accidents with other drivers on the road, according to filings.
Cruise is a startup founded in San Francisco in 2013 and acquired by General Motors in 2016. The startup immediately began converting the automaker’s Chevrolet Bolt EV to fully self-driving, and is backed by $14 million in funding from General Motors.
The Bolt remains Cruise’s go-to self-driving EV until its Origin platform EV finally takes over. While the company continues to expand its autonomous robo-taxi service in California, it’s not without mistakes (and the occasional accident).
Earlier this year, Cruise recalled 80 of its self-driving taxis, citing a risk of accidents, especially when cornering. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which launched an investigation in June after two people were injured, later said a software problem caused self-driving Cruise vehicles to “mispredict” the path of oncoming vehicles, increasing the risk of a collision.
To implement a software update to fix the prediction problem, Cruise temporarily disabled each of those EVs, then reintroduced unprotected left turns shortly thereafter. Now, however, the TSA is investigating two other reports of accidents involving Cruise’s self-driving fleet.
NHTSA re-investigates self-driving Cruise EV crash
NHTSA submits investigative report PE22014 Dec. 12, regarding GM’s Cruise and its fleet of self-driving electric vehicles, posing a collision risk in two types of “different instances.” These instances relate to EVs braking suddenly and/or becoming immobile, both of which can block roads and increase the risk of accidents.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) cited three separate reports that a Cruise vehicle equipped with the Autopilot System (ADS) braked hard in response to another vehicle approaching quickly from behind. In each case, the drivers ended up rear-ending the Cruise vehicle. In all three reported accidents, a human supervisor was present inside the self-driving car.
Citing “multiple reports” of self-driving Cruise vehicles blocking traffic, NHTSA said the exact number is currently unknown. However, all known incidents occurred without the presence of human overseers. According to the report:
When this happens, the vehicle can trap vehicle occupants in unsafe locations, such as driving lanes or intersections, and become an unexpected obstacle for other road users. These fixtures may increase the risk to disembarking passengers. Additionally, immobilization may cause other road users to make sudden or unsafe maneuvers to avoid a collision with an immobilized Cruise vehicle, such as swerving into oncoming traffic or entering a bicycle lane. Vehicle immobilization devices can also obstruct the path of emergency response vehicles, thereby delaying their emergency response time and presenting a secondary safety risk.
NHTSA’s Office of Defect Investigations (ODI) has conducted an initial assessment of the incident to determine the scope and severity of the potential safety issue. The government says it has learned about most of the self-driving incidents through a variety of sources, including directly from Cruise, media reports and submissions from local authorities.
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