In a major setback, GM’s autonomous vehicle subsidiary Cruise has had its permit to test driverless vehicles revoked by the California DMV, effective immediately.
The regulatory agency stated that the action was taken due to “an unreasonable risk to public safety” posed by Cruise’s operations. This bars Cruise from all testing of truly driverless vehicles without a human safety operator present.
Cruise had been one of only a handful of companies granted driverless testing permits in the state, considered the epicenter of autonomous vehicle development. This surprise suspension delivers a blow to GM’s efforts to lead the autonomous vehicle race.
The California DMV affirmed that Cruise can still conduct testing with safety drivers present in the vehicle. But losing driverless privileges hampers the ability to collect data and showcase technological capabilities minus human oversight.
Specific details on what prompted the shutdown of Cruise’s driverless testing were not provided. The suspension will remain in place until Cruise can demonstrate compliance and obtain the regulator’s approval.
As other rivals like Waymo forge ahead with expanding driverless testing, Cruise is effectively frozen in California until addressing the DMV’s concerns. This may introduce delays that allow competitors to pull ahead.
Cruise stated they will work with the DMV to resolve the issues and prove their vehicles operate safely. But for now, Cruise’s driverless program in the state remains grounded.
The surprise ruling highlights the challenges still facing autonomous vehicle developers seeking to remove human drivers before the technology has matured. While setbacks are expected, this represents a stark reminder of lingering limitations.
For GM and Cruise, getting back on track in California will be instrumental in cementing their position as a front-runner. This suspension is a clear signal that significant proving remains on the road to true autonomy.