Autonomous driving company Cruise and U.S. regulators said Thursday that the General Motors subsidiary recalled software deployed in 80 vehicles following a June crash in San Francisco involving a self-driving Cruise car that injured two people. The incident comes a day after California approved Cruise for a commercial driverless ride-hailing service in the state. The flawed software was updated in early July, Cruise said in filings with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The accident occurred when a Cruise vehicle attempted to make an unprotected left turn on a two-lane street when it was struck by a vehicle speeding in the opposite direction in the turning lane. Cruise said in its NHTSA filing that its software had predicted another car would turn right and determined it was necessary to brake hard when its own vehicle turned left to avoid a front-end collision. But the other vehicle continued straight through the intersection and collided with the now stationary Cruise car.
At least one person in the speeding vehicle and a Cruise employee in the self-driving vehicle were treated for injuries, according to a report Cruise filed with the California Department of Motor Vehicles in June. Cruise responded to the incident by tethering its robotic cars tighter until their software was updated. The company has reduced the area where vehicles can travel in San Francisco and banned them from making left turns entirely.
Cruise said in its NHTSA filing that the software update improved the predictions of its self-driving software, especially if it led to a crash. The company said it had determined that if the vehicles involved in the June 3 incident had been running current software, the collision would not have occurred.
This recall is only the second time NHTSA has involved fully self-driving software. In March, self-driving developer Pony.ai recalled three self-driving cars after discovering a software bug caused the system to unexpectedly shut down while the vehicle was in motion. All affected vehicles have been repaired, the company said. More and more software in vehicles means that more and more vehicle recalls — even in human-driven cars — can be done through over-the-air updates.
In a written statement about the Cruise recall, NHTSA chief Steven Cliff said the agency will continue to investigate accidents involving autonomous vehicles and will “ensure that automakers and developers prioritize pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users” safety of the users”. Cruise met multiple times with NHTSA officials to discuss the crash, according to recall documents.
Cruise spokesman Hannah Lindow said in a written statement that the software issue has been resolved. “Cruise AV is even better at preventing this bizarre, idiosyncratic event,” Lindow wrote. Currently, Cruise’s service operates in 70 percent of the city between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. on rainy or foggy days except. Interested riders must apply to use the service. The robot can turn left again.