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Robotaxi Operator Cruise Accused of Chaotic Safety Culture in a Letter to Regulators

Cruise robotaxis were involved in several incidents and accidents in the past months, both before and after it got permission to operate commercial service in San Francisco. An alleged whistleblower apparently warned California regulators about Cruise’s chaotic safety culture two weeks before granting the permit.
Robotaxi operator Cruise accused of chaotic safety culture in a letter to regulators 6 photos
Robotaxi operator Cruise accused of chaotic safety culture in a letter to regulatorsRobotaxi operator Cruise accused of chaotic safety culture in a letter to regulatorsRobotaxi operator Cruise accused of chaotic safety culture in a letter to regulatorsRobotaxi operator Cruise accused of chaotic safety culture in a letter to regulatorsRobotaxi operator Cruise accused of chaotic safety culture in a letter to regulators
Cruise was cleared by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to offer driverless commercial robotaxi services in San Francisco on June 2. It was the first company to get such a permit, beating rival Waymo to the punch. Waymo was also allowed to offer commercial services in San Francisco, but only with a human safety operator on board.

Cruise is no stranger to crashes but according to a whistleblower letter sent to CPUC, the company’s “chaotic environment” prevented it from addressing safety concerns raised by employees. Worse, information from traffic crashes involving the company’s vehicles was hidden from employees working on critical safety systems.

The letter claims that “employees generally do not believe we are ready to launch to the public, but there is fear of admitting this because of expectations from leadership and investors.” Ready or not, launch they did, even though the letter arrived at the CPUC offices on May 19, two weeks before the regulators granted Cruise the permit.

A spokesperson for the CPUC said to Automotive News that the agency is “looking into the concerns raised in the letter.” They did not say whether commissioners were aware of its existence when they voted to approve Cruise’s license.

Knowledge of the latter comes as several incidents involving Cruise robotaxis surfaced in the media. In April, months before the permit was issued, a police officer pulled over a Cruise vehicle driving at night with the lights off. The vehicle then repositioned itself before the traffic stop was complete. Later in the month, another Cruise vehicle blocked the path of a fire truck en route to a blaze.

On June 3, just one day after Cruise got the permit, one of its autonomous vehicles was involved in a crash that resulted in injuries. And two weeks ago, dozens of Cruise vehicles clustered at an intersection, blocking the traffic. The same whistleblower letter claims that these so-called clustering incidents happen pretty often. Sometimes they can be solved remotely, but in some cases, the vehicles need to be towed from the location.

 
 
 
 
 

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