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California DMV suspends permits for Cruise driverless robotaxis

DMV suspends Cruise's permits determining they are not safe for public's operation
DMV suspends Cruise's permits determining they are not safe for public's operation 03:27

SAN FRANCISCO – The California Department of Motor Vehicles announced Tuesday that the agency has suspended permits of autonomous vehicle firm Cruise LLC.

In a statement, the DMV said it notified the San Francisco-based company, a subsidiary of General Motors, that their autonomous vehicle deployment and driverless testing permits have been suspended, effective immediately. The decision does not impact the company's permit for testing with a safety driver.

According to the DMV, the suspensions are based on several issues:

13 CCR §228.20 (b) (6) - Based upon the performance of the vehicles, the Department determines the manufacturer's vehicles are not safe for the public's operation.

13 CCR §228.20 (b) (3) - The manufacturer has misrepresented any information related to safety of the autonomous technology of its vehicles.

13 CCR §227.42 (b)(5) - Any act or omission of the manufacturer or one of its agents, employees, contractors, or designees which the department finds makes the conduct of autonomous vehicle testing on public roads by the manufacturer an unreasonable risk to the public.

13 CCR §227.42 (c)- The department shall immediately suspend or revoke the Manufacturer's Testing Permit or a Manufacturer's Testing Permit - Driverless Vehicles if a manufacturer is engaging in a practice in such a manner that immediate suspension is required for the safety of persons on a public road.

Shortly after the DMV's announcement, Cruise said it will be pausing operations of their autonomous vehicles in San Francisco.

"Ultimately, we develop and deploy autonomous vehicles in an effort to save lives," the company said in a statement.

Cruise has faced increasing scrutiny since the California Public Utilities Commission allowed the company and rival Waymo to expand testing of their robotaxis in San Francisco. 

City officials criticized the move and asked the CPUC to pause the authorization in favor of an incremental approach, amid reports of the vehicles making wrong turns, stalling in the middle of the road and interfering with first responders.

Following the CPUC's decision, Cruise agreed to a request by the DMV to cut their fleet of robotaxis in the city in half after two crashes, one of which involved an emergency vehicle.

Cruise faced additional scrutiny following a hit-and-run crash earlier this month in which a human driver struck a woman near Market and Fifth streets in downtown San Francisco, sending her into the path of a robotaxi. 

The woman was seriously injured. Authorities are still looking for the hit-and-run driver.

In its statement Tuesday, Cruise addressed the crash at Market and Fifth Street.

"In the incident being reviewed by the DMV, a human hit and run driver tragically struck and propelled the pedestrian into the path of the AV. The AV braked aggressively before impact and because it detected a collision, it attempted to pull over to avoid further safety issues. When the AV tried to pull over, it continued before coming to a final stop, pulling the pedestrian forward. Our thoughts continue to be with the victim as we hope for a rapid and complete recovery," the company said.

Cruise said the company had shared information with the DMV, CPUC and NHTSA, including video. The company has also assisted police in identifying the hit-and-run vehicle.

"Our teams are currently doing an analysis to identify potential enhancements to the AV's response to this kind of extremely rare event," the company went on to say.

However, the DMV in its Order of Suspension said Cruise failed to hand over video that showed what the car did after the initial stop. The company also allegedly failed to report about the car's movement. 

The DMV said the Cruise vehicle tried to do a pullover maneuver while the victim was underneath the car, and they only learned about it from another department. The additional video was given to the DMV after a request was made, and they received it on Oct. 13.

Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced it was investigating Cruise after receiving reports of incidents where the company's autonomous vehicles not using proper caution around pedestrians in roadways.

San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu praised the DMV's decision, saying it "vindicates the significant public safety concerns raised by the City." The city attorney urged the CPUC to come up with a "sensible, measured plan" for the vehicles.

"We hope the CPUC, which regulates the ability of AVs to carry passengers, will similarly recognize the current impacts of AVs on San Francisco streets, including blocking traffic, interfering with the transportation network, and impeding our first responders and grant our City's request to reconsider its decision that allowed for the unfettered expansion of AVs in San Francisco," Chiu said.    

Phil Koopman, an expert in autonomous transportation at Carnegie Mellon University, told CBS News Bay Area that there is no reason autonomous vehicle companies should be testing their technology without a driver in the first place.

"Having a safety driver does not prevent you from making progress. The safety driver does nothing, then you've got safety covered and you're still doing testing," Koopman told reporter Anne Makovec. "So removing the safety driver isn't actually about safety, removing the safety driver is about public perception and keeping your investors happy and things like this.

Before the suspension was even announced, Teamsters and other labor groups rallied outside Cruise's San Francisco headquarters, highlighting their concerns over safety and jobs.

Following the DMV's decision, they said it was too little, too late.  

"These are problems that we had been warning them about for a long time," John Bouchard of Teamsters Local 350 told CBS News Bay Area. "If they would have listened to us in the first place, or engaged with us, or engaged with city officials before they were making those decisions, things would have turned out very differently."     

The DMV said it has provided Cruise with the steps needed to apply to reinstate the suspended permits. Reinstatement would only occur if the company "has fulfilled the requirements to the department's satisfaction," the agency said.

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