The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched an official investigation into the operating system used by the Cruise autonomous service in San Francisco.
The General Motors-owned company operates a fleet of more than 200 self-driving vehicles in an in-city pickup service.
There have been several reported incidents where vehicles brake hard or become completely stationary on the road, blocking traffic.
NHTSA said Friday that the problems “although they may look different, each has caused Cruise vehicles to become unexpected road obstacles.”
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Three hard braking incidents caused Cruise vehicles to be rear-ended. A Cruise spokesperson told FOX Business that all vehicles involved have a supervising human backup driver on board and respond to aggressive or erratic movements made by other vehicles. The company has already met with NHTSA to discuss the events and provide all relevant information.
“Cruise’s safety record has been made public and includes driving approximately 700,000 fully autonomous miles in a highly complex urban environment with zero life-threatening injuries or deaths,” Cruise spokesman Drew Pusateri said.
“This is against a background of over 40,000 deaths on American roads each year. There is always a balance between sound regulatory scrutiny and the innovation we desperately need to save lives, so we will continue to cooperate fully with NHTSA or any regulator. . Achieving this common goal.”
Cruise has reported 29 accidents so far this year, most of them minor, involving hitting other cars while parked.
NHTSA also looks at the “frequency, duration and safety consequences associated with vehicle immobilization incidents,” many of which have been documented by eyewitnesses on social media.
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The agency wants to identify what hazards arise, including stranded passengers and emergency vehicles being blocked by traffic.
Cruise said the incidents were the result of a “minimum risk condition” policy that immobilizes vehicles and turns on hazard lights when a major malfunction is detected, and that to date none have caused any accidents.
In September, Cruise voluntarily recalled and updated the software of its vehicles to improve its operation following a collision that was investigated by NHTSA in June.
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Cruise recently announced plans to expand the service’s operation to Austin, Texas and Phoenix, Arizona.
Reuters contributed to this report.