SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — San Francisco self-driving taxi company Cruise faces a safety investigation over issues with their cars. A reporter from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says investigators have received numerous reports of Cruise cars stopping in the middle of the road and braking hard on San Francisco city streets.
“I watched about five minutes, and I saw folks just drive around it,” said Oakland resident Kelly Pendergrast after she witnessed a Cruise car stuck. “It was blocking traffic at a really busy intersection.”
Pendergrast says she watched the car remained stopped for 15 minutes until a Cruise technician arrived. During that time, she says cars would drive around the car and honk at it, but there is no one to honk at. Cruise cars have no one behind the wheel. The car is operated by a computer.
VIDEO: Video shows driverless Cruise vehicle in San Francisco
“AI is nothing fancy,” said Moayed Daneshyari, prof. of computer science at Cal State East Bay. “It gets data from experiences. I imagine this will cause some setbacks, but I would say that in three or four or five years, it will be something very normal.”
This week the State of California announced Cruise can offer driverless rides at any time of day and anywhere in San Francisco. Cruise said in a statement:
“Cruise’s safety record is publicly reported and includes having driven nearly 700,000 fully autonomous miles in an extremely complex urban environment with zero life-threatening injuries or fatalities. This is against the backdrop of over 40,000 deaths each year on American roads. There’s always a balance between healthy regulatory scrutiny and the innovation we desperately need to save lives, which is why we’ll continue to fully cooperate with N-H-T-S-A…”
The probe comes at an important time for Cruise, which in June started charging passengers for autonomous rides without human safety drivers in part of San Francisco at night.
It’s also a critical time for the autonomous vehicle industry, with Google spinoff Waymo running a robotaxi service in the Phoenix area with plans to expand to San Francisco. Other companies also are moving toward services without human safety drivers.
San Francisco-based Cruise plans to expand the service to Phoenix and Austin, Texas. The startup owned by GM has been testing autonomous Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles for several years.
In September, Cruise revealed that it recalled 80 of its driverless vehicles for a software update after one of the cars was involved in a crash that caused minor injuries.
Cruise told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, that one of its vehicles was making an unprotected left turn at an intersection when it was hit by an oncoming vehicle. The Cruise vehicle had to be towed away from the scene, according to the regulatory filing.
GM acquired a majority stake in Cruise when it was a startup in 2016. The company invested to take 80% stake in the company last May.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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