California has suspended driverless vehicles operated by the General Motors subsidiary Cruise in the city of San Francisco—just two months after the state began allowing the robotaxis to pick up paying passengers around the clock. The suspension appears to stem primarily from a gruesome October 2 incident, in which a collision with a human-driven vehicle threw a female pedestrian into the path of a driverless Cruise car, which hit and then dragged her approximately 20 feet.
The suspension marks a serious setback for the driverless vehicle industry, which has faced charges of under-regulation even as Cruise and others plan to expand to new cities across the US.
In a statement, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles says it has determined that Cruise’s vehicles are “not safe for the public’s operation” and that the company ”misrepresented” safety information about its autonomous vehicle technology. The agency says it has informed Cruise of changes it needs to make to win back its permits, but didn’t share details of what they are. In a statement, Cruise spokesperson Navideh Forghani said the company has “stayed in close contact with regulators to answer their questions.”
The suspension has no specified end date. Cruise is still permitted to operate robotaxis in San Francisco with a human safety driver behind the wheel—which is how the company initially began to test self-driving cars in the city.
In a blog post published today, Cruise provided additional details on the October 2 collision. According to the company, which has 40 cameras and sensors mounted on each of its vehicles, its self-driving vehicle quickly swerved and braked in an attempt to avoid a collision with the woman, but still made impact. The vehicle then stopped but, according to Cruise, “attempted to pull over,” dragging the woman an additional 20 feet. Cruise says this sort of evasive maneuver was built into the vehicle’s software to promote safety, and is required by both California and federal regulators.
Cruise says the vehicle then stopped again. Emergency responders arrived soon after, according to TV station NBC Bay Area, and the San Francisco Fire Department said the victim was “extricated from beneath the vehicle using rescue tools.” The department said she was transported to the hospital with multiple traumatic injuries. The human driver of the vehicle that initially struck the woman has not been caught.