Federal regulators are eyeing autonomous vehicles with more suspicion than ever. In 2021, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation into Tesla’s autonomous driving system (ADS). Now, the agency is investigating General Motors Cruise vehicles equipped with ADS after receiving reports that they become immobilized during operation and apply hard braking.
The NHTSA Office of Disabilities and Investigations opened a Preliminary Evaluation to determine the scope and severity of a potential problem. The agency received three reports of Cruise’s vehicle slamming on the brakes, resulting in each being hit from behind. All three were operating with onboard human supervisors at the time of the crash. NHTSA noted that the incident resulted in two injuries.
NHTSA is unsure of the number of incidents in which Cruise’s vehicle has become immobilized. However, the agency said it had received “several” where the vehicle operated without human supervision on board. They stem from discussions with Cruise, media reports, and local authorities such as the San Francisco City Transportation Agency and the San Francisco Transportation Authority.
Cruise told Reuters his vehicle had traveled nearly 700,000 miles independently without life-threatening injury or death. He also said he would continue to work closely with NHTSA.
When NHTSA opened its investigation into Tesla, it observed 11 accidents involving the brand’s electric vehicles and at least one stationary first responder’s vehicle. The collision resulted in 17 injuries and one death, most of which occurred after dark.
Autonomous driving systems aren’t perfect, and there are still issues to be worked out before the technology becomes mainstream. The ambitious promises of the technology have yet to be fulfilled, although automakers such as Volkswagen believe autonomous cars could become mainstream by 2030. While the NHTSA is investigating the company, GM’s robotaxi division has plans to expand by 2023. It is looking for places like this Austin and Phoenix to enter. Currently, the company operates around 30 Chevrolet Bolt taxis.