General Motors has taken a more active role in shaping Cruise’s safety culture, following a series of incidents that prompted California regulators to suspend the permits that allow its self-driving car subsidiary to operate in state commerce. The legacy automaker has tapped one of its own executives, who is also a Cruise board member, to lead the self-driving company’s legal and policy, communications and finance teams.
Craig Glidden, GM’s EVP of legal and policy and a Cruise board member, will become Cruise’s chief administrative officer. Glidden will oversee work streams around transparency and community engagement, according to Cruise.
Cruise said it would also halt all guided and manual autonomous car operations in the US, which the company said affected about 70 vehicles. Cruise has voluntarily halted all of its driverless operations in cities across the country, including Houston, Austin and Phoenix, to “rebuild public trust” after an Oct. of a pedestrian, who was hit by a human-driven vehicle, ran over and was dragged 20 feet by a Cruise robotaxi.
“This orderly stop is an additional step to rebuild public confidence as we undergo a thorough safety review,” according to a blog post from the company announcing the changes.
In early November, The cruise has hired consulting firm Exponent to conduct a technical root cause analysis of the October 2 incident. The company said Tuesday that the remit will expand to include a comprehensive review of all of Cruise’s safety systems and technology.
The Cruise board also said it would hire a third-party safety expert in the coming weeks to thoroughly examine the company’s operations and safety culture. The moves follow the lead of other AV companies, including those facing scrutiny over safety practices. Uber ATG, the ride-hailing company’s former self-driving vehicle unit, has hired former National Transportation Safety Board chairman Christopher Hart to advise the company on its safety culture following the May 2018 fatal self- driving car crash in Arizona.
The outside safety expert was in addition to last week’s announcement that Cruise would hire a chief safety officer to report directly to Vogt. Some AV companies like Aurora have dedicated chief safety officers. Cruise did not respond in time to confirm whether the company had a dedicated executive in charge of company safety in the past.
A survey that Blind, an anonymous forum for verified employees, conducted for TechCrunch found that half of Cruise employees are not at all confident (32%) or somewhat confident (18%) in the culture of Cruise safety. More than three-quarters of 136 Cruise employees surveyed from November 7 to November 8 said they believe Cruise is trying too hard.
The changes come a day after Cruise and GM held a board meeting to discuss next steps for the embattled AV company. CEO Kyle Vogt warned staff last week that layoffs were coming, and then the company began releasing contract workers.