A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report reveals Cruise has had to recall 950 of its self-driving vehicles from cities across the USA for a software update to the Collision Detection Subsystem of its Automated Driving System (ADS). Cruise says it has already deployed the remedy to its supervised test fleet and will now deploy the remedy to its driverless fleet prior to resuming driverless operations.
The recall is the latest development in the ongoing fallout following an accident between a driverless Cruise robotaxi and a pedestrian in San Francisco last month. The accident led the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to subsequently revoke Cruise’s permits to test and operate fully driverless vehicles on the state’s highways and urban roads.
The NHTSA report states: “On October 2, 2023, a Cruise AV, operating in driverless mode, was involved in a collision in which a humandriven vehicle collided with a pedestrian and propelled the pedestrian into the immediate path of the Cruise AV. After coming to an initial stop, the AV attempted to pull over out of traffic, pulling the individual forward. Cruise immediately began an investigation of the incident.”
On October 3, 2023, Cruise met with the DMV, NHTSA, and other San Francisco officials to discuss the incident, where it provided a briefing to the California Public Utilities Commission. Cruise also reported the incident to NHTSA that same day, in accordance with NHTSA’s Standing General Order.
The report continues, “In the course of its investigation of the incident, Cruise determined that the ADS attempted to pull over after the collision, rather than remain stationary. Cruise continued its evaluation of the AV’s post-collision response to ascertain whether and under what circumstances the issue could recur by conducting a broad review of historical driving data and running extensive simulation tests to analyze the behavior of the ADS in comparable circumstances.”
This review took approximately three weeks to complete due to the rarity of the circumstances being examined and the extensiveness of the review. On October 23, 2023, Cruise completed its review and immediately initiated an assessment of the safety risk associated with the findings. It then developed a software update to fix the issue. The NHTSA report states, that with the new update, the Cruise AV would have remained stationary during the October 2 incident.
Meanwhile Cruise itself issued the following statement via a blog on its website:
We believe that over time autonomous vehicles can significantly reduce the number and severity of car collisions, including the more than 40,000 deaths on US roads each year. This is what motivates our work. We also know we have a responsibility to operate at the highest standards of safety, transparency and accountability.
We recently announced a pause of all our driverless operations while we take time to examine our processes, systems and tools and improve how we operate. During this time we plan to seek input from our government and agency partners and other key stakeholders to understand how we can be better partners.
Today we are sharing updates on some of the initial steps we have taken.”
Issued a Voluntary Software Recall
As part of our larger efforts to assess, identify and remedy issues as we work with NHTSA and other regulators, we have issued a voluntary recall of part of our AV software based on a new analysis of our AV’s post-collision response on October 2. The recall addresses circumstances in which the Cruise collision detection subsystem may cause the Cruise AV to attempt to pull over out of traffic instead of remaining stationary when a pullover is not the desired post-collision response.
We issued the recall through a 573 NHTSA filing, which is the standard protocol for a company looking to notify consumers of hardware or software safety issues that require a remedy. We have also developed a software update that remedies the issue described and have deployed it to our supervised test fleet, which remains in operation. We’ll deploy the remedy to our driverless fleet prior to resuming those operations.
Although we determined that a similar collision with a risk of serious injury could have recurred every 10 million-100 million miles of driving on average prior to the software update, we strive to continually improve and to make these events even rarer. As our software improves, it is likely we will file additional recalls to inform both NHTSA and the public of updates to enhance safety across our fleet.
Announced a Chief Safety Officer (CSO) Role
Cruise is conducting a search to hire a chief safety officer who will report directly to the CEO. In the meantime, Dr Louise Zhang, VP of safety and systems, will assume the role of interim chief safety officer and oversee our safety review and investigations.
Retained Third-Party Law Firm to Review October Incident
The Cruise Board retained law firm Quinn Emanuel to examine and better understand Cruise’s response to the October 2 incident, including Cruise’s interactions with law enforcement, regulators and the media. This outside review will help us learn from this incident, strengthen our protocols, and improve our response to these types of incidents in the future.
Appointed Exponent to Conduct Technical Root Cause Analysis
In addition to our cooperation with investigations from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), we have hired an independent, third-party engineering firm to perform a technical root cause analysis of the October 2 incident. We will incorporate their findings into our safety and engineering processes.
Initiated Additional Workstreams
We have identified four key areas of potential improvements to how we operate and have assigned leaders to investigate each one and complete follow up actions.
- Safety Governance: We are taking a deep look at our overall safety approach and risk management structures to ensure we are built and positioned to enable continuous improvement.
- Safety and Engineering Processes: We have advanced tools and processes in place and are committed to further upgrades wherever warranted. We are comprehensively reviewing all of our safety, testing and validation processes and will add or modify processes where there is room to improve.
- Internal & External Transparency: We understand that transparency is key to trust, especially in an emerging industry like ours. We are committed to improving how we communicate with the public, our customers, regulators, the media, and Cruise employees.
- Community Engagement: We also understand the importance of collaborative partnerships. To realize the community benefits of autonomous driving, we need to do a better job engaging with our stakeholders and soliciting their feedback.
We are dedicated to building a better Cruise, and these initial actions are just some of the steps we’re taking as we listen, learn and improve. We are committed to keeping our customers, regulators, and the public informed throughout this process.