US transport chief aims to ensure Cruise, other self-driving vehicles safe

WASHINGTON: US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Monday the federal government will do everything it can using existing regulatory powers to ensure that General Motors robotaxi unit Cruise and other autonomous vehicles are deployed safely.

Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt resigned on Sunday, a day after apologizing to staff as the company undergoes a safety review of its US fleet.

Cruise pulled all of its vehicles from US testing after an Oct 2 accident in San Francisco that involved another vehicle and ended with one of Cruise's self-driving taxis dragging a pedestrian.

"We're going to do everything we can with the authorities we do have, which are not trivial," Buttigieg told reporters.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), part of Buttigieg's department, has opened an investigation into whether Cruise is taking sufficient precautions to safeguard pedestrians.

In October, the California Department of Motor Vehicles ordered Cruise to remove its driverless cars from state roads, calling them a risk to the public and saying the company had misrepresented the safety of its technology.

Two dozen unions including the Transport Workers Union of America, International Brotherhood of Teamsters and United Auto Workers this month urged Buttigieg to do more to ensure the safety of autonomous vehicles (AVs), saying that "NHTSA must initiate an industry-wide investigation to determine the true extent of the safety failures behind the scenes."

Cruise's woes are a setback for an industry dependent on public trust and the cooperation of regulators. The unit had in recent months touted ambitious plans to expand to more cities, offering fully autonomous taxi rides.

Cruise competes with Alphabet's Waymo in deploying autonomous vehicles and had been testing hundreds in several cities across the United States, notably its home of San Francisco.
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