US security agencies are examining GM’s self-driving cruise cars

A cruise ship in San Francisco, California on Wednesday February 2, 2022.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

US motor vehicle safety officials have opened a formal investigation into the autonomous driving system used by General Motors’ Self-propelled vehicle unit Cruise.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it had received complaints about the self-driving vehicles — retrofitted Chevrolet Bolt EVs — which, according to a filing, “brake unreasonably hard” or “stalled during operation.”

Officials said although the two types of incidents appear separate, they each result in the Cruise vehicles becoming unexpected lane obstructions.

“This can pose several potential dangers, such as: B. a collision with a cruise vehicle, the risk of a stranded passenger disembarking from an immobilized cruise vehicle, or disruption to other traffic, including emergency vehicles,” NHTSA said in the filing.

Drew Pusateri, a spokesman for Cruise, a controlling interest of GM, said the San Francisco-based company has and will continue to “work fully with NHTSA or any regulatory agency.”

Pusateri said in an email that “there’s always a balance between healthy regulatory oversight and the innovation we desperately need to save lives.” He said the company drove nearly 700,000 fully autonomous miles in an “extremely complex urban environment with no life-threatening injuries or fatalities.”

The probe includes about 240 of the vehicles equipped with the software system, according to NHTSA. Each of the crash incidents have already been reported, as required by self-driving vehicle regulations.

Cruise attributes the accidents to vehicles “predicting and responding to the behavior of aggressive or unpredictable road actors.” The company said the cars were “working to minimize the severity of the collision and the risk of damage.”

The federal investigation, which began earlier this week, comes as Cruise awaits regulatory approval to expand its San Francisco robotaxi service from about 30% of the city to the entire community.

NHTSA said it received multiple reports of both incidents, including three instances of hard braking that resulted in the car being hit from behind. The safety agency said the exact number of vehicles immobilized on the road is unknown, but such incidents have been confirmed by the company and reported by the media.

NHTSA said the Office of Defects Investigation will “determine the scope and severity of the potential issue and will fully assess the potential safety-related issues raised by these two types of incidents.”

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