California DMV revokes Cruise's driverless permits effectively immediately

Citing safety concerns, the California Department of Motor Vehicles on Tuesday suspended Cruise's driverless cars in San Francisco, effectively immediately.

"Public safety remains the California DMV’s top priority," the DMV said in a statement, adding that it is in its purview to suspend or revoke permits when there is an "unreasonable risk to public safety." 

The DMV said they believe Cruise's cars are not safe for public operation and said the manufacturer misrepresented information related to the safety of its technology. Federal regulators had recently launched an investigation into Cruise because of possible deficiencies when it comes to pedestrian safety.

In a lengthy statement, Cruise said they learned of the news about 30 minutes before the DMV issued its suspension. Cruise acknowledged the company would "be pausing operations." 

But Cruise disputed that their cars don't operate safely. 

"Ultimately, we develop and deploy autonomous vehicles in an effort to save lives," the company said.

Cruise has come under scrutiny following incidents where the autonomous cars blocked first responders, unexpectedly froze on city streets, or ignored traffic signs and signals.

San Francisco city leaders have fought to limit Cruise's vehicles concerned for the safety of pedestrians, other drivers and first responders.

"They do not report what we see every day – running of red lights, near misses with pedestrians," said Aaron Peskin, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. "All of those bugs have to be ironed out. These things [cars] are still not ready for prime time."

Although the DMV did not cite any specific instances of threats to public safety, Cruise pointed to a specific example that the company said is being reviewed by state regulators.

That was the Oct. 2 hit-and-run of a woman in San Francisco at 5th and Market streets. The woman had been walking across the street and was struck first by a car driven by a person, and then struck secondarily by a Cruise car, the company had stated earlier.

The Cruise car "braked aggressively before impact and because it detected a collision, it attempted to pull over to avoid further safety issues," Cruise reiterated in its statement.

When the Cruise car tried to pull over, it ended up pulling the woman a bit forward, Cruise acknowledged.

When first responders arrived, they found the woman pinned underneath the self-driving car.

Investigators saw no other vehicles around and there was no one inside the self-driving car, when the crash happened.

Shortly after that happened, Cruise said their team shared that information with the DMV, California Public Utilities Commission and the federal NHTSA, including the full video. 

Cruise also shared that video with KTVU for viewing purposes only.

The DMV said it has provided Cruise with the steps needed to apply to reinstate its suspended permits, which the DMV will not approve until the company has fulfilled the requirements to the department’s satisfaction. This decision does not impact the company’s permit for testing with a safety driver.

"This is really now a vindication of San Francisco’s position," said Peskin. "Hopefully it is a sign that the state of California is maturing in its regulation of this new technology."

Cruise and Waymo both got regulatory approval from the California Public Utilities Commission in August to commercially operate their robotaxis in San Francisco. 

"I am really excited about the autonomous vehicles and what they can provide," said Mayor London Breed. "But I also think it’s important that we balance that with the appropriate safety measures to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to not oversaturate our streets when we’re not necessarily ready."

The DMV ordered Cruise to cut its fleet in half a week after its approved expansion as it investigated several recent crashes involving Cruise robotaxis.

Cruise did not say when it would fulfill the regulatory requirements laid out by the DMV or when it may reapply for the driverless permits.

The DMV statement did not say anything about the other autonomous car company, Waymo.