Things are going from bad to worse for Cruise’s robotaxis

GM’s self-driving cruise division is already going through a rough patch, and the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) recently suspended its driverless permits over safety concerns. Now, several new reports have highlighted other problems with the company, including problems with its autonomous vehicles (AVs) that recognize children and the frequency with which human operators must take control remotely. The company also just announced which is temporarily suspending production of its fully autonomous Origin transport.

The most troubling issue is that Cruise reportedly kept his vehicles on the streets even though he knew they had trouble recognizing children. The interception reported. According to previously unreported internal safety assessment materials, Cruises’ self-driving vehicles may not have been able to effectively detect children to take additional precautions.

“Autonomous cruise vehicles cannot have additional care with children,” the document states. So the company was concerned that its robotaxis might drive too fast near children who might move unexpectedly on the street. Cruise also lacks data on child-specific situations, such as children becoming separated from adults, falls, riding a bike, or wearing costumes.

In a simulation, the company couldn’t rule out a scenario in which a vehicle hits a child. In another specific driving test, a vehicle detected a child-sized dummy but still hit it with a mirror at 28 MPH. The company attributed the problems to inadequate software and testing; Specifically, it lacks AI software that can automatically detect child-shaped objects around the car and maneuver accordingly.

In a statement to The interception, Cruise admitted that his vehicles sometimes temporarily lost track of children on the side of the road during simulation tests. He added that the problem was fixed and was only seen in testing and not on public roads, although he did not say what specific actions were taken to resolve the problem. A spokesperson also said the system had not failed to detect children, but had failed to classify them as such.

He further stated that the chances of an accident involving children were relatively low. “We determined, from observed on-road performance, that the risk of a potential collision with a child could occur once every 300 million miles when driving a fleet, which we have since improved. There have been no collisions on the road with children”.

The report also notes that Cruise AVs have trouble detecting large holes in the road, such as pits at construction sites with work crews inside, something the company itself called a “major risk.” GM’s own documents indicated that even with its small fleet of autonomous vehicles, a vehicle was likely to enter such a hole at least once a year, and a pit with people inside once every four years.

That scenario almost happened, according to the video reviewed by The interception. Onboard cameras show an autonomous vehicle driving to the edge of a pit, inches from workers, despite the presence of construction cones. It only stopped because someone waved a “slow” sign in front of the windshield.

“Improving our AV’s ability to detect potential hazards around construction zones has been an area of ​​focus, and in recent years we have conducted extensive testing and human-supervised simulations that have resulted in continued improvements,” the company said in a statement. release. “These include improved cone detection, complete avoidance of construction zones with excavations or other complex operations, and immediate enablement of AV Remote Assistance support/monitoring by human observers.”

All of that raises the question of whether Cruise should operate its vehicles on public roads. “If you can’t see the kids, it’s very hard for you to accept that it’s not a high risk, no matter how rare you think it’s going to happen,” said Phil Koopman, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon. The interception.

The child detection issue isn’t the only recent exposure about Cruise, as it turns out that robotaxis aren’t really autonomous at all. In fact, they need human assistance every four to five miles, according to a report published in The New York Times largely confirmed by Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt in Hacker News.

“Cruising AVs receive remote assistance (RA) 2 to 4 percent of the time on average, in complex urban environments.” Vogt wrote. That equates to someone intervening every four or five miles, which could be several times on many trips. There is typically one remote assistant “for every 15-20 driverless autonomous vehicles,” Cruise later claimed.

In a statement to CNBCthe company provided additional details: “Often the AV proactively initiates these [remote assistance actions] before you are sure you will need help, such as when the AV’s intended path is obstructed (e.g. construction blockages or detours) or if you need help identifying an object,” a spokesperson wrote. “Remote assistance is in session between 2 and 4 percent of the time the AV is on the road, which is minimal, and in those cases the RA advisor provides guidance information to the AV, not controls it remotely.”

Finally, Cruise appears to have halted production of its Origin self-driving vehicle after the California DMV revoked its license. Forbes reported. In a general meeting with employees, Vogt, referring to the DMV license withdrawal, stated that “because a lot of this is changing, we made the decision with GM to pause production of the Origin,” according to audio of the meeting. .

Cruise still operates its autonomous vehicles in California, but now must have a backup human driver behind the wheel. Meanwhile, California says it has given Cruise a path back to driverless operation. “The DMV has provided Cruise with the necessary steps to request reinstatement of its suspended permits, which the DMV will not approve until the company has complied with the requirements to the department’s satisfaction. ”he said in a statement.

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