The Very Slow Restart of G.M.’s Cruise Driverless Car Business


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At a sprawling complex in Warren, Mich., General Motors’ hopes for its driverless car future play out in a virtual reality headset offered to visitors.

In a video, the electric and autonomous car drives itself. Wirelessly connected to traffic lights and the surrounding streets, the car avoids collisions and reduces congestion, part of what G.M. calls its “0-0-0” vision — “zero crashes, zero emission, zero congestion.”

At least, that’s the plan. G.M.’s driverless future looks a lot further away today than it did a year ago, when Cruise, G.M.’s driverless car subsidiary, was deep into an aggressive expansion of its robot taxi services, testing in 15 cities across 10 states.

On Oct. 2, a Cruise driverless car hit and dragged a pedestrian for 20 feet on a San Francisco street, causing severe injuries. Weeks later, the California Department of Motor Vehicles accused Cruise of omitting the dragging from a video of the incident that was initially provided to the agency and suspended the company’s license in the state.

In November, Cruise voluntarily paused all operations across the country after facing widespread criticism that it was neglecting safety as it expanded its driverless taxi service. Cruise also pushed out nine executives, its chief executive stepped down, and the company laid off a quarter of its work force.

Now comes the hard part: Rebuilding a ruined reputation. In recent interviews with The New York Times, the three executives now running Cruise say they are in no rush to get back on the road. After learning the hard way about the risks of moving too fast with a cutting-edge technology, Cruise has slowed its breakneck development to a crawl to avoid another major mishap.

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The Very Slow Restart of G.M.’s Cruise Driverless Car Business

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