December 2, 2023
  • General Motors Cruise Robotaxi Unit introduces software updates for its fleet, which will change robotaxi behavior following certain types of traffic accidents or impacts.
  • The pedestrian was trapped under a robotaxi in October after a hit-and-run accident in San Francisco. Although the robotaxi braked rapidly, the pedestrian became stuck. The robotaxi performed a pulling-over maneuver instead of staying in place.
  • Cruise hired an engineering firm outside to conduct a root cause analysis of this incident. The California Department of Motor Vehicles is investigating the matter.

In the wake of the October incident in San Francisco in which a Cruise robotaxi drove over a pedestrian who had been struck by a car in a separate hit-and-run accident, General Motors’ autonomous division has announced a series of changes.

Cruise’s first major move is to recall the Robotaxi software that was used immediately after impact. Cruise acknowledged earlier that the robotaxi applied the brakes correctly when approaching the pedestrian victim in the hit-and-run. Still, the robotaxi proceeded with the pullover shortly after impact, seemingly unaware of the injured pedestrian underneath.

The recall addresses situations where the Cruise collision detection system may cause the Cruise AV vehicle to try to pull out of traffic rather than remain stationary when a pulling over is not desired as a post-collision reaction,” Cruise stated in a press release.

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Cruise has developed and distributed a software upgrade that addresses this issue.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are investigating the incident.

Cruise announced a new Chief Safety Officer position, which will be added to the Safety & Systems Division of the company. Louise Zhang will perform the role on an interim basis. She is the VP of Safety & Systems.

Cruise stated that the robotaxi started braking as soon as it detected a pedestrian walking towards it.

General Motors, on the other hand, has announced that it will halt production of its Origin shuttle, which began just weeks earlier in Detroit. The multi-passenger MPV was to be a Level 4 robotaxi with ride-pooling. It would have been based on the Ultium Platform.

Cruise, in addition to losing the California DMV license to operate in San Francisco that was only granted earlier this year, has also suspended passenger services in cities where it had been planning to expand.

Cruise’s license to operate in San Francisco will be re-issued after a software upgrade, which was virtually guaranteed following the October incident.

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The incident, among other things, should serve as a case study for what happens when the robotaxi is part of a crash that has already begun, triggered by a car. This had not occurred in the US before October.

It is a bit surprising that the robotaxi didn’t already have the programming in place to make sure it would stop if it ran over a pedestrian or the sensors necessary to detect the situation.

It is at least foreseeable that, at some point, a pedestrian might become trapped underneath a robotaxi, regardless of whether the robotaxi was to blame or not. The car would then need to stay in place.

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It is known that robotaxis have a coding system to govern their behavior when solid objects are driven over, like traffic cones. However, it is unknown to what extent a Cruise Robotaxi can classify these objects and make appropriate decisions.

Cruise previously claimed, in defense of its robotaxi, that the car began braking 460 milliseconds before a pedestrian was detected walking into its path. This is much faster than any human being could react.

 

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