Cruise Self-Driving Taxis Being Investigated For Congesting Traffic

Estimated read time 3 min read

Maybe robots aren’t such good drivers after all?

It’s been a bad year for autonomous driving startups, what with several closing most notably Argo AI, but one more hit is coming in before the clock strikes midnight on December 31. As originally reported by The Detroit News, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened an investigation into claims that Cruise robotaxis are stabbing the brakes or just slow down to a stop on busy roadways, leading to serious congestion.

Watch police flawlessly use a Stop Stick on a fleeing Dodge Hellcat here.

What triggered this probe by the federal government regulatory agency were apparently three rear-end collisions where allegedly a Cruise autonomous vehicle brake-checked other drivers. While the Chevy Bolts outfitted with the self-driving equipment had a human sitting in the driver’s seat, it appears the cars were driving themselves at the time of the three incidents.

Add to that problems in San Francisco, where Cruise taxis have been roaming the streets without a human babysitting in the front seat. Reportedly, the Bolts are just stopping in traffic and not moving at all, blocking the lane. There are allegations riders in the backseat were stranded, too, making an autonomous future not seem quite like the utopian paradise that’s been promised.

So far, only two reports of injuries from Cruise autonomous cars braking suddenly have been reported. One was a cyclist who was seriously hurt back in March, and while we don’t have details it sounds like the rider possibly crashed into the car.

Currently, there are about 242 Cruise AVs operating in the United States. Depending on what the NHTSA investigation uncovers, they could all be recalled and the future of the robotaxi service might be cast in shadow.

Of course, Cruise is putting a positive spin on the perplexing problem and ensuing investigation. A spokesman told The Detroit News the company is cooperating with the probe, a wise move, and emphasized the autonomous taxis have driven almost 700,000 miles collectively. He then pivoted to cite how many roadway deaths there are on average every year, as if that’s an apples-to-apples parallel. Finally, the Cruise spokesman referenced the fact no tickets were issued by police in the incidents, which might have to do more with the fact the robotaxis are owned by a company backed by General Motors and has an army of attorneys than the perception of fault.

This comes after someone captured footage of a Cruise taxi in San Francisco briefly running from police as they tried pulling it over. AV fans alleged the vehicle was just driving to a safe place to pull over, while others pointed out if a human driver used that excuse they would likely have the book thrown at them.

The fact of the matter is the future of fully-autonomous vehicles seems dim at best at the moment, with each passing month casting even more doubt on the lofty claims of AV dominance in the market made just a few short years ago.

Source: The Detroit News

Images via Cruise

Steven Symes

Steven Symes is an accomplished automotive journalist with a passion for all things related to cars. His extensive knowledge and love for the automotive world shine through in his writing, which covers a diverse range of topics.

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