CHARLOTTE (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — You may have caught a glimpse of them motoring around the Queen City — compact cars marked with special signage, cameras, and sensors.
These autonomous electric vehicles, with a safety driver behind the wheel for now, are undergoing early test runs for future robotaxi service in Charlotte.
In other cities, they have been fully operational as driverless taxis. Until now.
It’s all about rebuilding public trust in the aftermath of Cruise chaos.
The driverless car company, Cruise, owned by General Motors, has hit a major red light. The company has chosen to suspend all driverless operations nationwide after a series of mishaps prompted California regulators to suspend the permit of Cruise’s robotaxi service in San Francisco, citing it as a dangerous menace.
While these robotaxis have been undergoing preliminary trial runs in Charlotte with a human driver, in San Francisco, Austin, and Phoenix, they have been operating driverless.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles said the cars are not safe. This, after scary incidents where the autonomous cars blocked first responders, disregarded traffic signs and signals, froze on city streets, and even was involved in a pedestrian accident.
“Public safety remains the California DMV’s top priority,” the DMV said in a statement, adding it can suspend or revoke permits when there is an unreasonable risk to public safety.
The DMV has provided Cruise with changes needed to reinstate its suspended permits. The suspension does not impact the company’s permit for testing with a safety driver.
Regarding Cruise’s test runs in Charlotte, the program should not be affected by the company’s speed bumps, although a launch date for the robotaxi service has not yet been released.
According to a spokesperson, “Our initial testing/data collection phase in Charlotte has concluded. We do not have an update to share on timing at this point, but this pause does not impact supervised testing (autonomous driving with a safety driver behind the wheel), which is our next step in Charlotte.”
Statement from Cruise posted on social media Friday:
“The most important thing for us right now is to take steps to rebuild public trust. Part of this involves taking a hard look inwards and at how we do work at Cruise, even if it means doing things that are uncomfortable or difficult.
In that spirit, we have decided to proactively pause driverless operations across all of our fleets while we take time to examine our processes, systems, and tools and reflect on how we can better operate in a way that will earn public trust.
This isn’t related to any new on-road incidents, and supervised AV operations will continue. We think it’s the right thing to do during a period when we need to be extra vigilant when it comes to risk, relentlessly focused on safety, & taking steps to rebuild public trust.”