source- CTV News
Regulators Threaten Fine Amid Accusations of Withholding Critical Details
California regulators are taking a stern stance against General Motors’ Cruise, the operator of a San Francisco Robotaxi service, alleging a cover-up regarding the severity of an accident involving one of its driverless cars. The development suggests that alongside the recent suspension of its California license, a substantial fine of approximately $1.5 million looms over the service.
Allegations and Impending Penalty
Based on documents filed by the California Public Utilities Commission, Cruise faces potential penalties for purportedly misleading regulators regarding an accident involving its driverless vehicle. The incident occurred on October 2 in San Francisco when one of Cruise’s cars collided with a pedestrian who had previously been struck by another vehicle.
The commission has summoned Cruise to an evidentiary hearing on February 6, intending to investigate whether the Robotaxi service withheld crucial information from regulators concerning the aftermath of the accident.
Regulatory Scrutiny and Previous Authorization
This hearing arrives just six months after the commission authorized Cruise’s Robotaxi service to commence charging passengers for continuous rides across San Francisco. Despite objections from city officials regarding reported malfunctions in the driverless cars, the commission had granted Cruise permission to operate.
Shortly after the October 2 accident, the California Department of Motor Vehicles took action, suspending Cruise’s license to operate in the state. This suspension significantly impacted Cruise and its parent company, General Motors, which had invested heavily in developing the driverless service, aiming for substantial revenue generation and expansion beyond San Francisco.
Repercussions and Company Response
In the wake of the accident, Cruise suffered substantial losses, resulting in the resignation of Kyle Vogt, the CEO, and co-founder. General Motors CEO, Mary Barra, addressed the incident, acknowledging the necessity for transparency and improved relations with regulators in a bid to enhance safety in transportation technology.
Despite not directly addressing the potential fine, Barra highlighted organizational changes within Cruise, particularly in government relations and legal teams, as steps toward progress. Cruise, in its statement, assured a timely response to the commission’s concerns and has engaged an external law firm to review its handling of the October 2 accident.
The gravest concerns revolve around Cruise’s purported concealment of video footage depicting the Robotaxi, named “Panini,” dragging the pedestrian for 20 feet at a speed of seven mph before coming to a stop. The regulatory filing suggests that Cruise failed to disclose critical details for over two weeks after the accident, casting a shadow over its transparency and accountability in the matter.
The commission’s documents allege that Cruise initially reported an immediate stop of the vehicle upon impact without revealing the subsequent dragging of the injured pedestrian. The delayed provision of video evidence until October 19 underscores a potential 15-day cover-up, exposing Cruise and General Motors to the possibility of significant fines.
As the February hearing approaches, the spotlight remains on Cruise’s handling of the accident and its subsequent disclosures, underscoring the critical need for accountability and transparency in the development and deployment of autonomous vehicle technology.