California shuts down one of two state robo-taxi operators as ‘not safe’



(The Center Square) – Citing “performance of the vehicles,” the California Department of Motor Vehicles suspended the driverless testing permits of GM-backed Cruise, one of the two autonomous taxi operators the state approved for operations in California. The other, Google-backed Waymo, remains in operation.

“When there is an unreasonable risk to public safety, the DMV can immediately suspend or revoke permits. There is no set time for a suspension,” wrote the DMV. “The California DMV today notified Cruise that the department is suspending Cruise’s autonomous vehicle deployment and driverless testing permits, effective immediately.”

Both Waymo and Cruise were approved for robotaxi operations in San Francisco in August. While Waymo was recently allowed to expand to cover 47 square miles of the city, Cruise, just a week after gaining approval for its San Francisco driverless service, was ordered to reduce its fleet by 50% until an investigation into issues with its cars could be completed.

With Uber prices having increased by 83% between 2018 and 2022 and inflation squeezing pocketbooks, the cost savings offered by electric, autonomous vehicles are an appealing option for consumers. However, the bumpy rollout of fully autonomous vehicle technology, combined with the need for further testing and regulations required to ensure the technology can be significantly safer than human operation have led to the technology’s slow adoption.

“Ultimately, we develop and deploy autonomous vehicles in an effort to save lives,” said Cruise in a public statement acknowledging the suspension of its autonomous vehicle permit.

According to an analysis from Ars Technica of Waymo and Cruise’s crash reports, the companies reported 102 crashes over 6 million miles, which works out to one crash per every 60,000 miles, or “five years [of driving] for a typical human motorist.” With one analysis finding American drivers have an accident for every 553,000 miles, autonomous vehicles still require significant improvement before reaching parity with human operators.

“These were overwhelmingly low-speed collisions that did not pose a serious safety risk. A large majority appeared to be the fault of the other driver. This was particularly true for Waymo, whose biggest driving errors included side-swiping an abandoned shopping cart and clipping a parked car’s bumper while pulling over to the curb,” noted the analysis, which emphasized Waymo’s safety record. Cruise, meanwhile, “has room for improvement” due to higher rates of crashes driven by the car’s software, not other vehicles.



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