The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened a formal investigation into the operating system used by the autonomous Cruise service in San Francisco.
The General Motors-owned company operates a fleet of more than 200 autonomous vehicles within the city on a ride-sharing service.
There have been several reported incidents of vehicles exhibiting hard braking or completely immobilizing on the road, blocking traffic.
NHTSA said Friday that while the issues “appear to be different, each causes Cruise vehicles to become unexpected obstacles on the road.”
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Three hard braking incidents resulted in the Cruise vehicles being rear-ended. A Cruise spokesperson told FOX Business that all of the vehicles involved had a supervising human backup driver on board and were responding to aggressive or erratic movements made by other vehicles. The company has already met with NHTSA to discuss the incidents and provide all relevant information.
“Cruise’s safety record is publicly reported and includes having driven nearly 700,000 fully autonomous miles in an extremely complex urban environment without life-threatening injuries or deaths,” Cruise spokesman Drew Pusateri said.
“This is against the backdrop of more than 40,000 deaths each year on American highways. There is always a balance between healthy regulatory scrutiny and the innovation we desperately need to save lives, which is why we will continue to fully cooperate with NHTSA or any regulator. in achieving that shared goal.
Cruise has reported 29 accidents so far this year, most of which were minor and included collisions with other cars while parking.
NHTSA is also looking at the “frequency, duration, and safety consequences associated with vehicle immobilization incidents,” several of which have been documented by bystanders on social media.
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The agency wants to determine what hazards are present, including stranded passengers and the resulting traffic-clogged emergency vehicles.
Cruise said the incidents were the result of his “minimum risk condition” policy, which immobilizes vehicles and turns on their hazard lights when a significant fault is detected, and that none of them have caused accidents to date.
In September, Cruise voluntarily removed and updated its vehicles’ software to improve performance after a June collision that was investigated by NHTSA.
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Cruise recently announced plans to expand service operation to Austin, Texas and Phoenix, Arizona.
Reuters contributed to this report.