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Cruise suspends self-driving car operations in Austin, nationwide

A Cruise self-driving car drives through the University of Texas at Austin campus on Aug. 10, 2023.
Michael Minasi
/
KUT
A Cruise self-driving car drives through the UT Austin campus in August.

Self-driving car company Cruise has suspended operations nationwide, including in Austin.

The company announced its decision on social media Thursday. Cruise said it was reevaluating its operations and trying to earn public trust after it became the subject of a federal investigation for multiple incidents involving pedestrians in San Francisco.

In an email to KUT, the company said the decision is not related to any new on-road incidents.

“We have decided to proactively pause driverless operations across all of our fleets while we take time to examine our processes, systems, and tools and reflect on how we can better operate in a way that will earn public trust,” the email said.

Cruise cars that are being operated by humans will still be on the roads.

Council Member Paige Ellis, who chairs the city’s mobility committee, said Austinites had complained the city wasn’t doing enough to vet Cruise. The city is limited in its ability to regulate self-driving cars, she said.

“What’s difficult is the City Council doesn’t have a lot of leverage for these companies to operate in a state like Texas,” she said. “Oftentimes the Legislature says we cannot change the rules city by city to make sure we are allowing for technological advances that are good for the city.”

City Council Member Zohaib “Zo” Qadri said he often received complaints about Cruise cars obstructing traffic or scaring his constituents.

“Most of the folks reaching out to us were in downtown, UT,” he said. “Everything from ‘I was a pedestrian, cyclist or in a car myself and a Cruise car almost hit me,’ to ‘A Cruise car has stopped in the middle of an intersection,’ or ‘Several cars have stopped.' There was a fear."

Qadri said he’s pleased with Cruise's decision to suspend services.

“As someone who has honestly dealt with Cruise cars myself … it never seemed like they were ready for prime time,” he said.

Haya Panjwani is a general assignment reporter, with a focus on Travis County. Got a tip? Email her at hpanjwani@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @hayapanjw.
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