Following too many incidents, California calls an end to autonomous cars on its roads

An autonomous vehicle used by Cruise

On Tuesday, California ordered General Motors subsidiary Cruise to withdraw its autonomous and driverless cars from the state’s roads. The decision points to a risk to public safety, accusing the company of lacking transparency regarding the safety of its technology.

The deployment of Cruiseโ€™s autonomous vehicles and their testing permit have been suspended by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This halts the company’s driverless testing on Californian roads for the time being.

A slew of incidents

This suspension comes after a series of accidents involving the subsidiary’s vehicles. This marks a significant setback for the company, which General Motors saw as a significant growth opportunity, and for the entire autonomous vehicle industry.

A few weeks ago in San Francisco, a conventional vehicle hit a pedestrian, pushing her into the path of a Cruise vehicle. The latter ran over the victim and dragged her about twenty feet at just over 6 mph.

In addition to concerns about pedestrian safety, many reports mention traffic disruptions attributed to these autonomous cars. Among these incidents, an emergency response fire truck collided with an autonomous car that entered an intersection on a green light.

California had previously authorized Cruise and Waymo to operate their fleets as 24/7 robotic taxi services in San Francisco. However, many voices are now calling for stricter regulation of this technology.

Not so fully autonomous cars

Interior of a Cruise autonomous vehicle

Though the technology promises to reduce road accidents and enhance transportation efficiency, these incidents highlight the extensive work still needed to ensure their safety for the general public. This safety concern underscores the necessity of better human context understanding for unforeseen road scenarios.

Workers’ rights advocates and other critics of robot taxis have welcomed this suspension, viewing it as evidence that the technology is not yet ready for widespread adoption.

The DMV has provided Cruise with the necessary steps to request reinstatement of its suspended permits. Approval will only come once the company meets the department’s vehicle safety requirements. In the meantime, the company can still test its cars on the road, but only if a safety driver is on board.

These events are prompting California and other US states to re-evaluate the regulatory landscape for autonomous vehicles, raising crucial questions about their future integration on our roads and in our cities.

Illustration image: DEPOSITPHOTOS

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