This Thursday, just two days after the California Department of Motor Vehicles suspended Cruise’s driverless licenses, the company announced it would suspend all driverless operations nationwide to review its process and regain the trust of the audience.
“It was only a matter of time before an incident like this happened,” San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu said of the Oct. 2 crash. “And it’s incredibly unfortunate that this is happening, but it’s not a complete surprise.”
Immediately after the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted in August To allow General Motors’ Cruise and Google’s Waymo to charge for 24/7 rides around San Francisco, Chiu filed a motion to stop the business expansion, arguing that driverless cars had serious “public safety ramifications”.
Here in California, the whiplash that followed approval and then ban in just two months highlights the fragmented oversight governing the self-driving car industry — a system that allowed Cruise to ply San’s roads. Francisco for more than three weeks after the October collision, despite considerable delay. human trapped under the vehicle.
California Assembly member Phil Ting (D), whose district includes San Francisco, said the DMV did “the right thing” by suspending the licenses when it learned of the extent of the accident. While state legislators are struggling As for how to police this rapidly developing industry, he said the DMV already has a rigorous process for approving permits for autonomous vehicles. Cruise, for example, said he received seven different permits from the DMV in recent years to operate in California.
In California alone, more than 40 companies – ranging from young start-ups to tech giants – have permits to test their self-driving cars in San Francisco, according to the DMV. According to a Washington Post data analysis, companies collectively report millions of miles on public roads each year, as well as hundreds of accidents, most of them minor.
“It’s hard to be first, that’s the problem,” Ting said. “We are doing the best we can with what we know, knowing that (autonomous vehicles) are part of our future. But how can we regulate it, without crushing it?
A biased version of events
Just as the light turned green at a chaotic intersection in downtown San Francisco that October night, a pedestrian stepped into the road. A car driven by a human slammed into the woman, causing her to roll on the windshield for a few moments before being thrown into the path of Cruise’s driverless car.
The human-operated car fled the scene, while the cruise remained until authorities arrived.
The morning after the collision, Cruise showed the Post and other media images captured by the driverless vehicle. In the video shared via Zoom, the driverless vehicle appeared to brake as soon as it hit the woman. Then the video ended.
Asked by The Post what happened next, Cruise spokeswoman Hannah Lindow said the company had no additional footage to share and that the autonomous vehicle “braked aggressively to minimize the impact. According to the DMV, DMV officials first saw a similar video.
But this original video only captured part of the story.
San Francisco Board of Supervisors Chairman Aaron Peskin said first responders who responded to the crash noticed a trail of blood from the point of impact with the woman to where the vehicle finally stopped about 20 feet away.
The DMV said it met with Cruise the day after the accident, but did not receive additional footage until 10 days later after “another government agency” notified the DMV of his existence. While the Cruise vehicle initially braked, as the company reported, the longer video shows the car began moving toward the side of the road again.
According to the DMV, the cruiser dragged the woman trapped underneath for about 20 feet, a movement that may have aggravated his injuries.
Cruise refutes the DMV’s account, saying that “soon after the incident, our team proactively shared information” with state and federal investigators.
“We remained in close contact with regulators to answer their questions and helped police identify the hit-and-run driver’s vehicle,” Lindow said in a statement. “Our teams are currently conducting analysis to identify potential improvements in the (autonomous vehicle’s) response to this type of extremely rare event.”
In its decision Tuesday to revoke Cruise’s driverless licenses, the DMV said Cruise vehicles are “unsafe for operation by the public” and also determined that the company had misrepresented “information related to the safety of autonomous technology”.
Meanwhile, the National Road Safety Agency also opened an investigation in Cruise this month following reports that the vehicles “may not have exercised appropriate caution in the presence of pedestrians on the roadway.”
Ed Walters, who teaches autonomous vehicle law at Georgetown University, said driverless technology is essential for a future where there are fewer road deaths because robots don’t drive in a state of drunk and do not allow themselves to be distracted. But, he says, the accident shows that Cruise wasn’t “quite ready for testing” in such a dense urban area.
“In hindsight, you would have to say it was too early to deploy these cars in this environment,” he said. “It’s a warning that we should act incrementally.” That we should take it step by step and do as much testing as possible with people in cars to see when and if they are safe.
Under the DMV’s autonomous vehicle program, companies are asked to publicly report crashes involving driverless cars. only when in test mode. This means that if an incident like the one on October 2 occurs while the company is technically operating as a commercial service, the company is not required to report it publicly as a commercial service. “Autonomous Vehicle Crash Report.”
As of mid-October, the DMV said it had received 666 such reports. The October 2 crash is not one of them.
“In a commercial deployment, filing accident reports with the state is essentially voluntary,” said Julia Friedlander, senior director of automated driving policy at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. declared to municipal authorities during a recent meeting. “It is possible that some companies sometimes make the decision to file reports and do not necessarily do so at other times.”
Cruise said it complied “with all required reporting from our regulators” and that the company had “regular conversations with regulators regarding a number of reportable and reportable incidents.” Lindow, the spokeswoman, said the company reported the Oct. 2 accident to the DMV under reporting requirements that are not publicly available.
This is just one example of how difficult it is to get an accurate picture of the performance of driverless cars.
There are there few clear federal regulations that set rules on the operation of autonomous vehicles, and what standards they must meet before being tested on public roads. At the federal level, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration mainly brings together data on accidents self-reported by companies. In California, the DMV issues permits for testing and deployment, and the CPUC regulates commercial passenger service programs.
In San Francisco, city officials have no say in how cars will be deployed on their streets.
This lack of oversight has angered city officials, especially as driverless cars created by Cruise and Waymo have become ubiquitous in San Francisco. Cars have caused major headaches in the city as they have has disrupted first responders on numerous occasions, from driving into scenes marked off with caution tape to colliding with a fire truck while en route to a scene of emergency. City leaders attempted to stop the expansion by highlighting these incidents, but without success.
In an interview with the Washington Post Last month, Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt said criticism of driverless cars and incidents involving his company were overblown.
“Anything we do differently from humans is sensationalism,” he said at the time.
Who is responsible when there is no driver?
While it was a human who struck the pedestrian and a cruiser that dragged her 20 feet, Board of Supervisors Chairman Peskin said CPUC members who granted the company expanded permits – despite a series of reported problems with the technology – also bear some responsibility for the accident.
“Yes, I blame Cruise,” he said. “But there was supposed to be a check and balance – and that check and balance has completely failed, and it has failed spectacularly.”
Terrie Prosper, a spokeswoman for the CPUC, declined to make any of the commissioners available for an interview on the issue, saying “this issue is under deliberation.”
Moving forward, Chiu, the San Francisco city attorney, said officials are still working on their request to appeal Waymo’s permits to operate their robotaxi service in the city.
Although the company hasn’t caused as many high-profile incidents as Cruise in recent times, he said it’s important for the state to “go back to the drawing board” until regulators can set clearer standards for technology.
“The fact that we have multiple state agencies that seem to be working in different directions is a challenge,” he said. “Who is ultimately responsible for keeping our streets safe? »