More Headaches For GM's Cruise As NHTSA Probes Pedestrian Risks

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened an investigation into General Motors’ self-driving unit Cruise to determine whether it has taken enough measures to protect pedestrians.

The chief US auto safety regulator said its Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) has received two reports of incidents involving Cruise autonomous vehicles where pedestrians were injured, according to Reuters and AP. NHTSA added it identified two further incidents in videos posted to public websites. The number of relevant pedestrian incidents is unknown, ODI said.

The reports include Cruise autonomous vehicles “encroaching on pedestrians present in or entering roadways, including pedestrian crosswalks, in the proximity of the intended path of the vehicles,” NHTSA said. “This could increase the risk of a collision with a pedestrian, which may result in severe injury or death,” the regulator added.

The General Motors-owned company said it communicates regularly with NHTSA, with a spokesperson noting that the company “has consistently cooperated with each of NHTSA’s requests for information โ€“ whether associated with an investigation or not โ€“ and we plan to continue doing so.”

The probe comes two weeks after a serious incident in San Francisco in which a pedestrian was run over by a Cruise robotaxi after first being struck by a hit-and-run driver and thrown in front of the autonomous vehicle. The woman was hospitalized in critical condition.

Gallery: GM Cruise Driverless Taxi

ODI said the investigation’s purpose is to help determine the scope and severity of the potential problem and to fully assess the potential safety risks.

In August, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) said it was investigating incidents involving Cruise AVs in San Francisco, after a Cruise robotaxi was involved in a crash with a fire truck.

At the time, the California DMV asked for a reduction in the number of Cruise AVs allowed to drive in San Francisco. Cruise agreed to cut its SF fleet in half as authorities investigated two crashes involving Cruise AVs in the city.

Earlier in August, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted to allow robotaxis from Cruise and Waymo to operate around the clock in San Francisco, despite opposition from residents and city agencies.

Cruise robotaxis have been involved in several incidents this year in San Francisco and Austin, from causing gridlock on city streets and getting stuck in wet cement to more serious events like allegedly blocking responders in a shooting incident and colliding with other vehicles, including a municipal bus and a semi-truck.

This is not the first time the NHTSA is opening an investigation into Cruise. Back in December 2022, the agency opened a formal safety probe into Cruise after receiving reports of two injuries in rear-end crashes. The NHTSA said it had received notices of incidents in which self-driving Cruise vehicles “may engage in inappropriately hard braking or become immobilized.”

The previous safety probe came after three incidents involving Cruise robotaxis stopping hard and being hit by another car in a rear-end collision. 

Sources: Reuters, AP

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