GM’s Cruise Will Pay a Measly $112K to Put Robotaxis Back on California’s Streets

That's a $7,500 penalty for each of the 15 days Cruise withheld information about a collision from authorities.
General Motors Cruise self-driving car undergoing testing on the streets of the Mission District neighborhood of San Francisco, California, October 6, 2019.
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Cruise has been absent from California roads since the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issued a suspension order on October 24, 2023. The suspension was issued due to Cruise’s failure to cooperate in a pedestrian-involved collision investigation. However, the driverless taxis might now be allowed back on the road following a settlement that includes a $112,500 fine and additional reporting requirements. 

According to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), for more than two weeks following the October 2, 2023 incident, agents from General Motors’ self-driving car subsidiary withheld evidence directly related to the collision. Taking place near San Francisco’s Union Square, a pedestrian was struck in a crosswalk at approximately 9:30 p.m. by an unknown driver. The chain reaction of that initial impact caused the pedestrian to fall into the path of a driverless Chevrolet Bolt-based Cruise vehicle. Cruise falsely reported that the vehicle immediately stopped and contacted remote assistance.

What the autonomous vehicle (AV) actually did was a pullover maneuver that dragged the already injured pedestrian another 20 feet at the speed of 7 mph. There was video evidence of the incident, but Cruise only shared a partial recording. Only after several California agencies became involved did Cruise surrender the full video on October 19. The recording included the moments when the helpless pedestrian was dragged.

Cruise

The following week, on October 24, the DMV sent Cruise an Order of Suspension. With its permits pulled, Cruise could no longer operate in the state. On the very day of this suspension, Cruise posted a blog stating its good-neighbor actions and cooperation in “proactively sharing information” with state and federal authorities. In the CPUC report, this act was deemed misleading to the public. Cruise has since removed that post. Then its CEO quit

In December, Cruise was ordered to appear before the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to show cause as to why the company shouldn’t be sanctioned. The date with the ALJ was scheduled for February 6. Before that date, Cruise made attempts to defer the meeting and find an alternate resolution. The company seemingly didn’t want to face the judge, but Cruise’s motions were denied and a settlement was finalized on March 6.

The fine of $112,500 is calculated at $7,500 for each day that Cruise withheld the October 2 video. This is actually an increase from the previous daily fine of $5,000. Other components of the settlement include using DMV-modeled collision reports and that these reports be submitted concurrently to the CPUC and the NHTSA. Cruise must also submit a monthly report documenting every single time a Cruise AV enters a minimal risk condition (MRC) and subsequently hindered traffic of any kind. When in an MRC, an AV will revert to a low-risk operating mode because of a driving system failure or other issue. 

This doesn’t mean Cruise will be able to reestablish operations in California overnight, though, as the company still has to respond to additional DMV questions regarding permit reinstatement. Nevertheless, the GM subsidiary hasn’t given us a reason to trust it. It already acted in bad faith to obscure the true nature of the Oct. 2 incident, and its services have been suspended in multiple cities, including Dallas, Phoenix, and Houston. Safety and transparency don’t seem to be top priorities, which raises the question: What is?