Regulators in the United States are investigating reports that robot taxis operated by General Motors’ Cruise LLC can slow down too quickly or stop moving unexpectedly, even carrying passengers.
Three rear-end collisions that allegedly occurred after Cruise’s self-driving vehicles braked hard prompted the investigation, according to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). At the time, the robot taxis were backed by human drivers.
The agency also has several reports of Cruise robot taxis with no human backup drivers stalling in the middle of San Francisco traffic, possibly stranding passengers and blocking lanes.
The reports of immobilized vehicles come from conversations with Cruise, media reports and local authorities, the NHTSA said in an investigative document posted Friday on its website.
There have been two reports of hard braking-related injuries, including a seriously injured cyclist in March, according to NHTSA.
NHTSA says it will determine how often the problems occur and potential safety risks. The investigation, which covers some 242 Cruise autonomous vehicles, could lead to a recall.
Cruise spokesman Drew Pusateri said the company is cooperating in the investigation and that its vehicles have driven nearly 700,000 autonomous miles in a complex city without life-threatening injuries or deaths.
The investigation comes at an important time for Cruise, which in June began charging passengers for self-driving San Francisco rides. It’s also a critical time for rival Waymo, a Google spinoff that runs a robotaxi service in the Phoenix area with plans to expand into San Francisco. Other companies are also evaluating offering service without backup drivers.
San Francisco-based Cruise plans to expand its service to Phoenix and Austin, Texas. The GM-owned startup has been testing Chevrolet Bolt autonomous electric vehicles for several years.
GM acquired a majority stake in Cruise when it was a startup in 2016, and in May of this year bought an 80% stake.
Source: El Nuevo Herald