California DMV revokes operating permit for driverless car company after pedestrian collision

The California Department of Motor Vehicles announced Tuesday that it is suspending Cruise LLC’s permit to operate its autonomous vehicles without a test driver present. The company, which is owned by General Motors, was operating a fleet of robotaxis in San Francisco.

The decision is effective immediately. This marks the second time that the DMV has suspended a driverless testing permit, a DMV spokesperson said.

“Public safety remains the California DMV’s top priority, and the department’s autonomous vehicle regulations provide a framework to facilitate the safe testing and deployment of this technology on California public roads. When there is an unreasonable risk to public safety, the DMV can immediately suspend or revoke permits. There is no set time for a suspension,” the DMV said in a statement.

The agency said that it has provided Cruise with the steps needed to reinstate the permit to operate, “which the DMV will not approve until the company has fulfilled the requirements to the department’s satisfaction.”

The decision does not affect the company’s ability to test vehicles with a safety driver.

Cruise and Waymo, owned by Alphabet, both run driverless cars in San Francisco.

DMV said it has determined that Cruise vehicles are not safe for public operation and that the company misrepresented information related to the safety of its driverless vehicles.

The agency’s action also follows a DMV investigation into a series of disturbing incidents involving Cruise vehicles this summer.

In a statement, Cruise said it learned of the suspension Tuesday morning.

“As a result, we will be pausing operations of our driverless AVs in San Francisco,” a spokesperson said.

Cruise said that the autonomous vehicles were developed and deployed to save lives, but that the DMV is reviewing an incident in which a pedestrian who was a victim of a hit-and-run was struck a second time by a driverless vehicle. The company said the vehicle “braked aggressively” but as it attempted to pull over ended up dragging the pedestrian with it.

“Our thoughts continue to be with the victim as we hope for a rapid and complete recovery,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said that the company is doing an analysis to determine “potential enhancements” to driverless vehicle responses “to this kind of extremely rare event.”

The Teamsters Local 856, which represents drivers in the Bay Area and which opposed implementation of driverless vehicles, issued a statement Tuesday calling the DMV decision “too little, too late.”

“The Teamsters will not be appeased by baby steps or half-measures,” the statement said. “We are also disappointed to see that the DMV is providing Cruise with a pathway to apply for license re-instatement. The agency itself has alleged that Cruise misrepresented information related to the safety of its vehicles. This company doesn’t deserve a second chance.”

Adam Kovacevich, CEO of the Chamber of Progress, a tech industry-funded, center-left organization, said in a statement that it was a human driver who first struck the pedestrian and caused the victim to then be hit by a driverless car.

“It’s sad that the human driver responsible for causing a hit and run on San Francisco streets is still out there driving,” Kovacevich said. “It’s critical that the California DMV take a safety-first approach to AV deployment, and it’s noteworthy that Cruise has taken responsible steps here to share video and data with regulators every step of the way. Hopefully this unfortunate tragedy doesn’t stall a technology with the power to make our roads safer.”