California regulators have slammed the brakes on Cruise's autonomous ambitions, issuing an order to halt the implementation of their robotaxi permit for paid rides across San Francisco. The move by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) comes in response to safety concerns following a recent incident, casting a shadow over Cruise's future in the self-driving landscape.
The CPUC's decision follows the agency's automatic suspension of Cruise's authority to carry passengers in driverless autonomous vehicles (AVs) on October 24. This suspension came after a disturbing incident on October 2, where a pedestrian was struck by a human driver and subsequently run over by a Cruise robotaxi. The robotaxi, in a controversial move, attempted to pull over, dragging the pedestrian for about 20 feet. This incident led to the suspension of Cruise's permits by both the CPUC and the state's Department of Motor Vehicles.
The CPUC had initially granted permits to Cruise and Waymo in August, despite growing opposition to expanded robotaxi operations. However, San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu formally requested a rehearing in September on behalf of city transit and planning officials.
The recent order by the CPUC states that Cruise's permit will be stayed until the commission reviews San Francisco's application for a rehearing. This does not confirm a rehearing but signals the commission's intent to withhold any actions until they thoroughly evaluate the matter.
Notably, Chiu also requested a rehearing for Waymo's expanded permit, which was approved alongside Cruise's. The CPUC voted to deny Waymo's rehearing request.
Cruise, once touting the safety superiority of its technology over human drivers, now finds itself in a challenging position. The order to halt the permit rollout is the latest blow for Cruise, which has already voluntarily paused all driverless operations nationwide and initiated a fleet recall to rebuild public trust. The company has also ceased production of its purpose-built AV, the Origin, and started laying off contingency workers in a bid to weather the storm. Cruise's future in the autonomous vehicle space now hinges on navigating these regulatory setbacks and regaining confidence in its technology.