California regulator probes crashes involving GM’s Cruise robotaxis

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug (Reuters) – California’s autos regulator said on Friday it is investigating “recent concerning incidents” involving autonomous vehicles operated by General Motors (GM.N) unit Cruise in San Francisco and asked the company to take half its robotaxis off the roads.

The statement from California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) came after a Cruise robotaxi was involved in a crash with an emergency vehicle in San Francisco late on Thursday, the latest accident involving the self-driving cars.

The regulator also said it has asked Cruise to immediately reduce its active fleet of vehicles by 50% until the investigation is complete and Cruise takes actions to improve road safety. Cruise has agreed to a 50% reduction, it added.

“The DMV reserves the right, following investigation of the facts, to suspend or revoke testing and/or deployment permits” if it is determined to be an unreasonable risk to public safety, the regulator said in a statement.

Cruise said one of its cars “entered the intersection on a green light and was struck by an emergency vehicle that appeared to be en route to an emergency scene” after 10 p.m. on Thursday (0500 GMT Friday).

The car “did identify the risk of a collision and initiated a braking maneuver, reducing its speed, but was ultimately unable to avoid the collision,” the company, which is investigating the incident, said in a statement on Friday.

Initial investigation shows the collision occurred when a fire truck was operating in an emergency with its forward facing red lights and siren on, the San Francisco Police Department said in a statement to Reuters.

The police said the sole passenger in the autonomous vehicle (AV) was transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) last week voted to allow robotaxis from Cruise and Alphabet’s (GOOGL.O) Waymo to operate at all hours of the day throughout San Francisco and charge passengers for rides despite strong opposition from residents and city agencies.

The two have been running robotaxi tests limited by times and geographic areas within San Francisco.

City Attorney David Chiu asked the CPUC on Thursday to halt its decision while the city files for a re-hearing. “We have seen that this technology is not yet ready, and poor AV performance has interfered with the life-saving operations of first responders. San Francisco will suffer serious harms from this unfettered expansion,” he said in a statement.

Reporting by Abhirup Roy and Hyunjoo Jin in San Francisco; editing by Diane Craft and Sonali Paul