Speaking of Jailing Executives

Matthew G. Saroff
2 min readNov 7, 2023

The fact that semi-autonomous car service cruise, concealed the fact that the cars could not detect children.

This is not a semi-autonomous (requiring human intervention every 2½ minutes on average) car, this is cosplaying the 1975 Roger Corman/Paul Bartel film Death Race 2000:

In Phoenix, Austin, Houston, Dallas, Miami, and San Francisco, hundreds of so-called autonomous vehicles, or AVs, operated by General Motors’ self-driving car division, Cruise, have for years ferried passengers to their destinations on busy city roads. Cruise’s app-hailed robot rides create a detailed picture of their surroundings through a combination of sophisticated sensors, and navigate through roadways and around obstacles with machine learning software intended to detect and avoid hazards.

AV companies hope these driverless vehicles will replace not just Uber, but also human driving as we know it. The underlying technology, however, is still half-baked and error-prone, giving rise to widespread criticisms that companies like Cruise are essentially running beta tests on public streets.

………

The concerns over Cruise cars came to a head this month. On October 17, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced it was investigating Cruise’s nearly 600-vehicle fleet because of risks posed to other cars and pedestrians. A week later, in San Francisco, where driverless Cruise cars have shuttled passengers since 2021, the California Department of Motor Vehicles announced it was suspending the company’s driverless operations. Following a string of highly public malfunctions and accidents, the immediate cause of the order, the DMV said, was that Cruise withheld footage from a recent incident in which one of its vehicles hit a pedestrian, dragging her 20 feet down the road.

………

Even before its public relations crisis of recent weeks, though, previously unreported internal materials such as chat logs show Cruise has known internally about two pressing safety issues: Driverless Cruise cars struggled to detect large holes in the road and have so much trouble recognizing children in certain scenarios that they risked hitting them. Yet, until it came under fire this month, Cruise kept its fleet of driverless taxis active, maintaining its regular reassurances of superhuman safety.

“This strikes me as deeply irresponsible at the management level to be authorizing and pursuing deployment or driverless testing, and to be publicly representing that the systems are reasonably safe,” said Bryant Walker Smith, a University of South Carolina law professor and engineer who studies automated driving.

(emphasis mine)

This is not just irresponsible, this is criminal.

We need to start frog-marching Cruise executives, and possibly executives of its parent company, General Motors, out of their offices in handcuffs.

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