Still, Cruise's driverless cars are the closest thing to autonomous vehicles on public roads today, even though they operate in geofenced areas. This is why they classify as SAE Level 4 autonomous vehicles. On the plus side, most accidents involving Cruise robotaxis were minor hiccups or caused by other cars.
On a couple of occasions, though, Cruise was forced to issue safety recalls to fix the autonomous driving software problems that were thought to have contributed to the accident. Yet, we've never seen or heard of a Cruise robotaxi (or one from another AV company, for that matter) trying to cause a crash purposely.
A video recently shared on TikTok shows a Cruise driverless car aiming at pedestrians crossing the street as if it was actively "hunting" them. People watching the creepy video joked about it, saying that's what AI would do when it gets tired of being abused or laughed at. Jokes aside, the video showcases a situation when Cruise's self-driving software malfunctioned, putting people in danger. Luckily, no one was hurt, and the car continued its journey.
The video caught Cruise's attention, and the company gave a weird explanation. Apparently, there was another pedestrian to the right of the vehicle, who was not visible in the video. Cruise claims this person lunged in front of the car, causing it to briefly maneuver to the left to avoid contact. To add insult to injury, Cruise says the car's sensors "accurately tracked all pedestrians" and acted "in line with the safety design" to minimize risks.
Still, Cruise doesn't offer any evidence to support its claims. If it had a video of the obscured pedestrian to the right, releasing it would've cleared the situation. People also questioned Cruise software's decision to endanger three pedestrians to avoid one. Considering the car was moving slowly then, braking would have been a better choice. No matter how hard Cruise tries to say that its car did the right thing, people are unconvinced. Undoubtedly, the NHTSA should look into this more closely than Cruise did.
The company recently bragged about expanding operating hours in San Francisco. With the geofenced area also growing, Cruise robotaxis could find themselves in more awkward situations. Traffic is more dense and complicated during the daytime, posing new challenges to Cruise's autonomous driving software. The company is also working toward launching the Origin pods, which don't have a steering wheel or pedals.
This received our immediate attention, and after reviewing this interaction we want to provide important context–not visible in the video is another pedestrian to the right of the vehicle who lunged in front of the car, causing it to briefly maneuver to the left to avoid contact.— cruise (@Cruise) May 1, 2023
Sensor data showed our car accurately tracking all pedestrians and making decisions to minimize risk for both passengers and pedestrians, in line with our safety design.— cruise (@Cruise) May 1, 2023