Cruise Pedestrian Accident: Inquiry Says Poor Leadership, Cultural Flaws Plague Response Effort

By Trisha Andrada

Jan 26, 2024 05:28 AM EST

A third-party investigation found that regulatory oversights and coverup concerns have been plaguing General Motors' Cruise autonomous car business since last October. The research focused on culture problems, incompetence, and poor leadership inside the company's operations.

"The reasons for Cruise's failings in this instance are numerous: poor leadership, mistakes in judgment, lack of coordination, an 'us versus them' mentality with regulators, and a fundamental misapprehension of Cruise's obligations of accountability and transparency to the government and the public," the report stated.

(Photo : JOSH EDELSON / AFP via Getty Images)
A box placed on the LIDAR scanner of a robotaxi (L) disables it across from another disabled robotaxi (R) in San Francisco, California on July 11, 2023.

October Robotaxi Car Crash

A pedestrian in San Francisco was dragged 20 feet by a Cruise robotaxi after being hit by another car on October 2, 2023. The incident has sparked criticism around Cruise, which the recent paper partially covers.

A 105-page report detailing the investigation's findings was released on Thursday, January 25. The study examined whether Cruise officials misled investigators or media members when addressing the event.

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are among the several agencies that have continued their investigations into Cruise.

Meanwhile, Cruise released its own summary of the report, saying that the third-party investigation did not find evidence that its leadership or employees intended to mislead regulators during briefings the day after the accident, despite the findings indicating widespread issues with company culture.

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Study on Firm's Response

According to the recent investigation, a number of former and current Cruise workers and management tried to show regulators a video of the event at one of several early meetings but were only able to do so because of connection or "video transmission issues." Even if the intention to share the information was there, the Cruise personnel did not adequately notify certain authorities or regulators of all that happened.

An individual familiar with the case told CNBC, "The problem is that when the video froze, literally and figuratively, the Cruise employees froze in the moment, and nobody thought to speak up and fill in the detail."

Additionally, several workers neglected to revise or amend official corporate statements that sought to shift responsibility away from themselves and onto the human hit-and-run driver who had hit the pedestrian in the first place.

Former CEO and co-founder Kyle Vogt, who stepped down at the end of November 2023, was named in the study as having made many decisions to hide information, particularly pertaining to the media.

The report said, "This conduct has caused both regulators and the media to accuse Cruise of misleading them."

For this investigation, business law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan interviewed 88 Cruise workers and analyzed over 200,000 emails, SMS, Slack messages, and more.

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