Cruise says hostility toward regulators led to shutdown of its autonomous cars
General Motors' driverless car subsidiary Cruise said in a report Thursday that the adversarial approach taken by its top executives toward regulators triggered a chain of events that ended with the nationwide suspension of Cruise's fleet.
The nearly 100-page report was compiled by a law firm that Cruise hired to investigate whether his executives misled California regulators about a crash in San Francisco in October in which a Cruise The vehicle had dragged a woman for 20 feet. The investigation found that although the officials had not intentionally misled state officials, they had failed to explain key details about the incident.
In a meeting with regulators, officials let a video of the crash “speak for itself” instead of fully explaining how one of its vehicles seriously injured the pedestrian. According to the report written by the Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan law firm, officials subsequently focused on protecting Cruise's reputation rather than providing full details of the accident to the public and media.
The report is central to Cruz's efforts to regain public trust and ultimately restart his business. Cruise has been largely closed since October, when the California Department of Motor Vehicles suspended its license to operate because its vehicles were unsafe. It responded by taking its driverless cars off the roads nationwide, laying off a quarter of its workforce and replacing its co-founder and chief executive, Kyle Vogt, who resigned in November, with new leaders.
Cruz did not name Mr. Vogt in a blog post summarizing the law firm’s review.
The summary of the report was a long list of reasons to explain why regulators accused Cruise of misleading them. The law firm found that the engineer who provided the video of the crash to regulators had a poor Internet connection, preventing regulators from seeing a full and clear version of the video. Some senior Cruz leaders also did not know the details of the incident before the meeting with state officials.
Last month, Cruz fired nine people, most of whom he met with the DMV, with its vice president of communications later leaving. It eliminated approximately 900 positions out of 3,800, most of which were corporate and commercial roles that were less important after it suspended operations.
Cruise hopes the investigation will help repair his reputation and clear the way for the restart of his self-driving business. It believes its problem was the growth of a leadership team that made rapidly building a business a priority over the security of its operations.
Cruise has provided reports to the DMV and the California Public Utilities Commission, which authorizes the driverless car program in the state. It said it would also make it available to the public.
Anyone interested in the future of driverless cars will be paying close attention to this report. Cruise's troubles have caused concern among tech and auto companies that have spent billions of dollars developing the technology. It has also raised safety concerns from regulators and those concerned about the risks posed by robots hitting the road.
In Cruise's absence, Waymo, which was started by Google, has become the only self-driving car operation offering taxi rides in San Francisco. Although Waymo's fleet of about 250 cars has had few major incidents, the city of San Francisco sued the state of California last month for allowing Waymo and Cruise vehicles to operate without strict regulations.
“We know that our license to operate must be earned and ultimately granted by regulators and the communities we serve,” Cruz said in his blog post. “We are focused on advancing our technology and regaining public trust.”
Cruise is the latest tech company to approach a law firm to review its business. Uber appointed former Attorney General Eric H. Holder to investigate issues of sexual harassment and wrongdoing under co-founder Travis Kalanick
The way Cruise responded to the October 2 crash raised regulators' concerns over the crash. Another car struck the woman at a San Francisco intersection, throwing her into the path of one of Cruz's vehicles. The cruise car stopped and then moved forward 20 feet, dragging the woman to the shore.
The report said that although the cruise leadership team and personnel did not try to deceive or mislead regulators during an important meeting with various government officials the day after the incident, they did not disclose that there was a technical problem which caused Because the car was dragged. After the pedestrian was hit.
State officials said that instead of sharing the full video taken by Cruz's vehicle of the crash with the DMV, Cruz shared a condensed version that ended with his car stopping. In this, the footage of the car dragging the woman was removed. The DMV said it became aware of the full video from another agency.
The report commissioned by Cruise said the company had shared the video with some regulators, but when an employee showed the video during an October 3 meeting, “transmission issues” prevented regulators from seeing it. The car had pulled the pedestrian.
“They could have gotten away with this if they had been honest, but they took a different approach and destroyed their reputation,” said Matthew Wansley, a professor at New York's Cardozo School of Law who specializes in emerging automotive technologies. “To heal, they need to have a completely transparent autopsy of what happened.”
GM, which bought Cruise for $1 billion in 2016, has stepped up to lead the company. It installed its general counsel Craig Glidden as president of Cruise and made him responsible for overseeing the investigation and helping evaluate how the business should proceed. Mr. Glidden is trying to change the company's culture to place a greater emphasis on security and transparency with regulators and the public.
One of the changes the company plans to make is how it calculates the safety of its vehicles, a person with knowledge of the report said. At first, Cruise was focused on driving as many miles as possible without incident so he could demonstrate that his driverless cars are safer than cars driven by people. The company is in the process of defining a new vision.
Even before the October 2 crash, Cruz's cars were making headlines for other issues, including a collision with a fire truck and an incident in which one of his cars went into wet concrete and got stuck.