In another blow to advocates of driverless cars, General Motors says it will halt production of its autonomous Cruise Origin light-commercial vehicle.
The announcement comes only days after the automaker’s automated driving unit paused all driverless operations while an accident involving a pedestrian in San Francisco is being investigated by NHTSA, reports Forbes.
There’s speculation that at the heart of the Cruise automated driving technology is a fail-safe system that when the vehicle recognizes a problem it is programmed to park itself up off the roadway to await assistance.
In the latest accident, a pedestrian was victim of a hit-and-run driver and was thrown into the path of the Cruise robo-taxi, giving it no time to avoid a collision. However, video footage seen by investigators apparently shows the vehicle performing the parking maneuver while dragging the injured pedestrian under its wheels. This calls into question the safety standards of all vehicles fitted with Cruise’s systems and the reason why all Cruise robo-taxi services have been suspended.
Now Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt tells an all-hands company meeting that production of the Origin will be paused. Forbes reports in audio of his address, Vogt says: “Because a lot of this is in flux, we did make the decision with GM to pause production of the Origin.”
The Origin is entirely autonomous and has no manual steering controls or pedals. In an email to the news outlet, GM spokesperson Chaiti Sen says the company is “finishing production on a small number of pre-commercial vehicles” and is “temporarily” pausing production. She adds, “More broadly speaking, we believe autonomous vehicles will transform the way people move around the world, and the Origin is an important part of the AV journey – it's the first scalable vehicle ever designed specifically for autonomous rides and will make transportation more accessible.”
While GM says it will maintain the huge financial investment involved in developing fully autonomous technology, there are still lessons to be drawn from the collapse of driverless tech pioneer Argo AI, after co-investors Volkswagen and Ford pulled the plug almost exactly a year ago following heavy financial losses.