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Cruise’s robotaxis return to Arizona roads


Cruise will start re-deploying its autonomous vehicles after a major upheaval last year that led to a pause in its operations, the loss of its CEO and the dismissal of a big chunk of its workforce, including several executives. In a blog post on its website, the GM subsidiary said it’s resuming its manual driving activities in order to gather road information and create maps for its autonomous vehicles. The first fleet of Cruise vehicles to go out on the road again will be deployed in Phoenix, Arizona, though the company plans to expand to other cities as it continues to “engage with officials and community leaders.”

If you’ll recall, Cruise suspended all its driverless operations a few weeks after an incident in California, wherein one of its robotaxis ran over and dragged a pedestrian who was hurled onto its path after being hit by another vehicle. Both the California DMV and the California Public Utilities Commission revoked its licenses to operate in the state due to that incident and other safety-related issues. By November last year, Cruise also suspended manned robotaxi rides as part of an expanded safety probe conducted by an independent consulting firm.

Kyle Vogt, the company’s co-founder and CEO, resigned shortly after that. The company also dismissed nine key executives following an allegation by authorities that Cruise withheld a video showing the victim in the California incident pinned underneath its vehicle. In December, the robotaxi-maker laid off 24 percent of its workforce, which was around 900 personnel. The Intercept also reported last year that it saw internal safety assessment materials concluding that Cruise’s vehicles had problems recognizing children.

Cruise said in its post that it’s been conducting testing on closed courses over the past few months as it works on rebuilding trust. All the robotaxis heading to Phoenix will be human-driven vehicles without autonomous systems engaged. Its ultimate goal, of course, is to deploy fully driverless vehicles again, but the company didn’t say if it has a target date and didn’t share a timeline if it does have one.


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