Cruise vehicles will no longer be on Austin streets – at least for now.
The California-based autonomous vehicle company is temporarily ramping down all operations of its vehicles on public roads, including vehicles that had human drivers supervising.
It marks the latest scale down for Cruise, which paused driverless operations in Austin and nationwide in late October.
The pauses came after one of the company’s vehicles was involved in a high-profile incident in early October where a Cruise vehicle hit and dragged a pedestrian in California. After that incident, Cruise has been working to “rebuild public trust.”
The company, which announced the latest change in a blog post Tuesday, said it plans to operate its vehicles in closed-course training environments and simulation programs during the pause.
What have Cruise’s operations looked like in Austin?
Cruise, which is a subsidiary of General Motors, has had an Austin presence since September 2022. In December 2022 it began offering driverless ride-hailing services in certain areas of downtown, Central and East Austin between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. with plans to expand.
The company has been the subject of some viral videos in Austin in recent months showing vehicles in traffic jams and stopped in intersections, leading people, including City Council Member Zohaib “Zo” Qadri, to raise concerns about the company’s operations in Austin.
What happened in October?
The California Department of Motor Vehicles suspended Cruise’s testing and deployment permits in the state and accused the company of withholding information about a high-profile incident after the fatal crash, an accusation the company denied.
Cruise said the incident occurred when a car, driven by a human, collided with a pedestrian crossing a street against a red light. The pedestrian was then launched in front of an autonomous Cruise vehicle which braked but still collided with the pedestrian, and then pulled over after stopping, dragging the pedestrian forward about 20 feet.
Cruise has also been the subject of a federal probe from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration examining if the self-driving vehicles are using appropriate precautions around pedestrians.
What other actions is Cruise taking?
Last week, the company announced it was issuing a voluntary software recall of 950 vehicles designed to address what a Cruise vehicle does after a collision to address cases where the vehicle’s software might cause the vehicle to pull over when that’s not the desired response.
The company has also been cutting contract workers that supported the company’s ride-hailing services. The company did not say if Austin workers were affected or how many positions were cut.
Are there still self-driving vehicles in Austin?
Cruise vehicles are not the only autonomous vehicles that have been operating on Austin roads. Companies including Waymo and Volkswagen are currently testing such vehicles in Austin. Until autonomous vehicle startup Argo AI shut down last year, Ford and Argo AI were also testing self-driving vehicle technology in Austin including ride-hailing and delivery services.