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After pedestrian crashes, the feds want to take a closer look at Cruise's self-driving cars

A Cruise self-driving car, designated "Cookie," travels to a passenger pickup on Aug. 10.
Michael Minasi
A Cruise self-driving car, designated "Cookie," travels to a pick up a passenger on UT campus.

The firm behind some of Austin’s ever-present autonomous vehicles is under investigation by federal officials after pedestrians were hit by self-driving cars in San Francisco.

The Associated Press reports the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration is looking into two incidents involving Cruise cars, which rolled out in Austin this spring. The GM-backed firm says it's cooperating with the investigation.

In one incident, a pedestrian was struck by a Cruise vehicle after being hit by a human-driven vehicle in an adjacent lane. Cruise said its vehicle “braked aggressively” to dampen the impact. The pedestrian was run over and stuck under the Cruise vehicle. Another incident involving a pedestrian didn’t result in serious injury, the firm said.

In a statement to KUT, Cruise said it "has consistently cooperated with each of NHTSA’s requests for information," whether cases warrant an investigation or not, and that it would continue to do so. Cruise added that the two incidents account for a sliver of the more than 5 million miles traveled by its driverless vehicles.

As Cruise's fleet has expanded in Austin, formal and informal complaints — along with viral videos of cars stalling out or veering into lanes — have followed suit.

As of Wednesday, the Austin Transportation and Public Works Department had received 42 complaints about Cruise vehicles since July. That's nearly double the amount ATD reported last month. None of those incidents have resulted in injury, the department said.

Austin is in a bind as it relates to autonomous vehicles, as state law prevents cities in Texas from regulating them. Texas does require autonomous vehicle operators to report accidents and incidents with local authorities, and vehicles must be registered.

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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