A week after withdrawing all its autonomous cars, replacing its CEO, Cruise warns staff of layoffs and said it will re-launch in one city
Developments continue aplenty at General Motors’ self-driving division Cruise, after a torrid few weeks.
Reuters reported that Cruise is planning to re-launch in one unspecified city before expanding to others. But also that some “non-engineering” jobs will be cut.
This is just weeks after the California Department of Motor Vehicles barred Cruise’s self-driving vehicles following an accident in October. Cruise then halted its operations nationwide, and last week announced it was withdrawing all its vehicles off public roads in the US, amid an expanding safety investigation.
San Fran Accident
Back in August, California state regulator the Public Utilities Commission, had approved an expansion that authorised around-the-clock rides (from both Cruise and Waymo) throughout San Francisco – the second most dense city in the US.
However that move had been opposed by transportation and safety agencies, such as the police and fire departments, as well as many residents, because of concerns about erratic driving and interference with their operations.
But in October matters took a turn for the worse for Cruise, after a pedestrian was struck by vehicle driven by a hit-and-run driver, who fled the scene.
The pedestrian was unfortunately flung into the path of the Cruise robotaxi, and the person was then dragged beneath the robotaxi for 20 feet (6 metres) as it pulled over to the side of the road.
The critically injured female pedestrian was pinned beneath its rear wheels and had to be extracted from under the robotaxi with the help of the “jaws of life” by the Fire Department, before being taken to San Francisco General Hospital with “multiple traumatic injuries.”
After California pulled its licence, Cruise implemented a number of changes, including a recall of 950 driverless cars from the roads.
However the “recall” safety term is misleading, as the GM division instead issued an over-the-air software update and did not carry out a physical recall of the vehicles.
Cruise also reportedly compelled its then CEO Kyle Vogt and chief product officer Daniel Kan to step down.
But it looks like Cruise is plotting a return to US public roads.
“Once we have taken steps to improve our safety culture and rebuild trust, our strategy is to re-launch in one city and prove our performance there, before expanding,” the company was quoted by Reuters as saying in a statement.
The GM unit reportedly said it would focus on the Bolt-based Cruise AVs in the near term with a longer term strategy around the Origin, a multi-passenger vehicle designed without a steering wheel or other controls that could be used by a human driver.
Cruise also told employees in an email, which was read to Reuters, that it will also cut some jobs, “primarily in non-engineering roles” and would provide more details in mid-December.
According to Reuters, GM and Cruise did not disclose the city where it would relaunch operations but it is unlikely to be in San Francisco, where the accident took place.
Cruise has operations in Phoenix and Austin, where regulators have been more accommodating. Its main rival, Google’s Waymo, also has extensive operations in those cities.