Cruise said their decision is proactive and not a result of any new incidents.
AUSTIN, Texas — Cruise is pumping the brakes on its driverless fleet.
The company, which operates about 50 cars in Austin and just launched a fleet in Houston, is suspending all of its operations including right here in Texas.
Videos on social media show Cruise’s vehicles on the streets of Austin causing traffic jams and other problems.
A Cruise spokesperson said the decision isn’t part of any regulatory issues, but instead a proactive approach to rebuild trust with the public. This comes after a federal investigation was launched into the company after a pair of crashes, including one in San Francisco that left a pedestrian critically injured.
Officials with the company added that the decision was not due to any “new on-road incidents.”
The Austin City Council Mobility Committee met on Friday to present and consider different regulations for autonomous vehicles in Austin.
Mayor Pro Tem Paige Ellis and Council Member Zo Qadri told KVUE they were shocked of the suspension, but agreed it was necessary.
Both pointed to limited state regulations in place and the lack of ability the city holds to regulate self-driving vehicles.
“My hope is that we are given some of that power to regulate what happens in our city,” said Qadri.
The two hope Cruise’s decision to halt all operations nationwide is an eye-opener to state lawmakers.
“I would love to be able to regulate it locally. But if the state wants to do it, let’s all come together and figure out that plan,” said Ellis.
Ellis added that the vehicles were not ready for the road, and need to be thoroughly vetted before they can co-exist among us.
“Our public roads should not be a test playground,” said Mayor Pro Tem Paige Ellis during the meeting. “We should not be treated like guinea pigs.”
The goal of the council was to put Austinites at ease that the city is doing their part to be responsive of the community’s concerns and are working to make Austin’s roads safer.
“We cannot have vehicles just stopping in front of fire stations. We can’t have near-misses with pedestrians. We can’t have vehicles that can’t respond to law enforcement. These are very dangerous situations and we have to get it right,” said Ellis.
During a meeting with Austin’s Downtown Commission, Cruise said they’re working to address things like pedestrian safety, but claimed people try to test the cars by jumping in front of them or hitting them, which the technology can’t plan for.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) started its investigation by saying that the cars may not be exercising caution around pedestrians. A Cruise spokesperson said its safety record is “outperforming” human drivers and that the company is complying with information requests from the federal government.
Here’s the full statement provided by Cruise on pausing its operations:
“The most important thing for us right now is to take steps to rebuild public trust. Part of this involves taking a hard look inwards and at how we do work at Cruise, even if it means doing things that are uncomfortable or difficult.
“In that spirit, we have decided to proactively pause driverless operations across all of our fleets while we take time to examine our processes, systems, and tools and reflect on how we can better operate in a way that will earn public trust. This is not related to any new on-road incidents, and our supervised AV operations will continue.
“We think it’s the right thing to do during a period when we need to be extra vigilant when it comes to risk, relentlessly focused on safety, and taking steps to rebuild public trust.”