The accident happened after the robotaxi Cruise making a left turn stopped at the intersection, thinking an oncoming vehicle would turn in front of it. But the oncoming vehicle instead rolled straight, hitting the cruiser. The San Francisco Police Department and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have launched investigations.
Cruise said the oncoming vehicle drove into the right-turn lane and traveled at “about 40 mph” in a 25 mph lane before exiting the lane and moving forward. Cruise acknowledged in his recall filing that his robotaxi was not “responsive enough”. Cruise spokeswoman Hannah Lindow declined to say what the Cruise vehicle could have done differently and declined to release video of the crash.
Nonetheless, Cruise said in a statement that it made the recall “in the interest of transparency to the public.”
Cruise said in a document detailing the recall that he had already released a software update that he says improves the robotaxis’ ability to predict what other vehicles will do, including in crash-like conditions.
“Automated driving developers are constantly revising their software, including to address potential safety issues,” Bryant Walker Smith, a professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law who studies self-driving vehicles, told CNN Business. “It is to the company’s credit that they have treated this particular security update as a recall under federal law.”
Cruise continued to operate his robotaxi service in San Francisco after the crash. But at some point after the accident, which Cruise did not disclose, he disabled his vehicles ability to make unprotected left turns and reduced the area where his robotaxis operated. Cruise has been gradually reintroducing unprotected left turns since the July 6 software update. An unprotected left turn is a turn where there is no left turn signal that indicates when it is possible for a vehicle to leave.
Developing and operating robotaxis is extremely difficult and expensive. Cruise added shareholders besides GM, including Honda, Microsoft and Walmart. Cruise lost $500 million in the second quarter of this year, according to GM financial documents.
“It’s going to play a big role in how we get from point A to point B because it’s safer,” Barra told Fox Business.
NHTSA doesn’t have performance standards for fully autonomous vehicles like Cruise’s, but said it will pursue recalls if necessary.