California DMV suspends permits for self-driving taxis

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has announced that it has suspended the permits and vehicle deployments for Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors that produces self-driving taxis. The decision was made effective immediately on Tuesday, October 24, 2023, following several safety incidents and concerns involving Cruise’s autonomous vehicles.

What led to the suspension?

According to the DMV, the suspension was based on several factors, including:

  • The performance of the vehicles, which the DMV determined were not safe for the public’s operation.
  • The misrepresentation of information related to the safety of the autonomous technology of the vehicles by Cruise.
  • The act or omission of Cruise or its agents, employees, contractors, or designees that made the testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads an unreasonable risk to the public.

The DMV did not specify exactly what incidents or communications from Cruise led to the suspension, but it cited four regulations that allow it to revoke or suspend permits in such cases.

One of the incidents that may have triggered the suspension was a collision between a Cruise vehicle and a pedestrian in downtown San Francisco on October 3, 2023. The pedestrian had been hit by another vehicle and was propelled into the path of the Cruise driverless car, which then dragged the pedestrian along the road for a short distance while trying to pull off the road. The pedestrian suffered multiple serious injuries and was taken to a hospital.

The incident prompted an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which opened a probe into the safety of Cruise autonomous vehicles around pedestrians. The NHTSA said it was concerned about multiple reports involving pedestrian injuries and Cruise vehicles in recent months.

What are the implications of the suspension?

The suspension means that Cruise will have to stop its operations of its driverless vehicles in San Francisco, where it had received approval in August for round-the-clock robotaxi service. Cruise said it will cooperate with the DMV’s investigation and work to reinstate its permits.

“We learned today at 10:30 am PT of the California DMV’s suspension of our driverless permits,” Cruise spokesperson Hannah Lindow said in a statement. “As a result, we will be pausing operations of our driverless AVs in San Francisco.”

The suspension does not affect Cruise’s operations of its driverless fleets in Phoenix, Arizona and Austin, Texas, where it has also been testing its vehicles. It also does not affect Cruise’s operations of its vehicles with safety drivers, meaning there is someone in the driver’s seat ready to take over if needed.

The suspension is a major setback for Cruise, which is one of the leading companies in the self-driving car industry. Cruise has been valued at $30 billion and has received investments from Honda, Microsoft, Walmart, and SoftBank. It has also partnered with Honda to launch a self-driving ride service in Japan.

The suspension also raises questions about the safety and regulation of self-driving car technology, which has been touted as a way to reduce traffic accidents, emissions, and congestion. However, some critics have argued that self-driving cars are not ready for public roads and pose ethical and legal challenges.

What are the next steps for Cruise?

The DMV said it has provided Cruise with the steps needed to apply to reinstate its suspended permits, which it will not approve until Cruise has fulfilled the requirements to its satisfaction.

“The DMV has provided Cruise with the steps needed to apply to reinstate its suspended permits, which the DMV will not approve until the company has fulfilled the requirements to the department’s satisfaction,” the DMV said in its notice.

Cruise said it will continue to work with regulators and stakeholders to ensure the safety and reliability of its technology.

“We remain committed to working with regulators at all levels of government as we continue our mission to make transportation safer for everyone,” Lindow said.


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: California DMV suspends permits for self-driving taxis