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California DMV suspends Cruise’s self-driving car permits

A Cruise self-driving car, which is owned by General Motors Corp, is seen outside the company’s headquarters in San Francisco.

Heather Somerville | Reuters

The California Department of Motor Vehicles on Tuesday suspended Cruise’s deployment and testing permits for its autonomous vehicles, effective immediately.

The news follows a barrage of safety concerns and incidents since Cruise, owned by General Motors, received approval in August for round-the-clock robotaxi service in San Francisco.

“When there is an unreasonable risk to public safety, the DMV can immediately suspend or revoke permits,” the California DMV said in a statement.

The DMV said the suspension was based on a number of factors. It cited regulations stating that “the Department determines the manufacturer’s vehicles are not safe for the public’s operation,” and “the manufacturer has misrepresented any information related to safety of the autonomous technology of its vehicles.”

The decision was also based on the policy that “Any act or omission of the manufacturer or one of its agents, employees, contractors, or designees which the department finds makes the conduct of autonomous vehicle testing on public roads by the manufacturer an unreasonable risk to the public,” per the department’s statement.

Last week, federal auto safety regulators announced they were investigating Cruise following pedestrian injuries. The probe, spearheaded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, was prompted by multiple reports involving pedestrian injuries and Cruise vehicles in recent months and concerns an estimated 594 self-driving Cruise vehicles, according to the filing.

Cruise’s 24/7 robotaxi service, approved in a 3 to 1 vote by California’s Public Utilities Commission more than two months ago, made San Francisco the first major U.S. city to allow two robotaxi companies to compete for service “at all hours of day or night.” It allows Waymo, owned by Google parent company Alphabet, and Cruise to expand their fleets as needed and charge for fares at any time of day. 

One day after the approval, as many as 10 of Cruise’s driverless vehicles caused a traffic jam in San Francisco. On August 18, just over a week after Cruise received approval for expanded service, the DMV requested Cruise “immediately reduce its active fleet of operating vehicles by 50%” until an investigation was completed, according to the DMV.

The DMV on Tuesday said it provided Cruise with a guide to apply for the permits to be reinstated, according to the department, but it would not approve such an appeal unless Cruise fulfills the requirements “to the department’s satisfaction.”

The DMV’s decision does not affect Cruise’s permit for testing with a safety driver, according to the department.

Last week, Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt posted on LinkedIn that “Safety is our top priority, and our passion is continuous improvement. As a result, our AVs continue to get better.”

Cruise did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

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