Autonomous vehicle company plans Dallas launch amid probe by federal regulators – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
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Over the last few weeks, a driverless ride-hailing service is testing out vehicles on Dallas streets.
Cruise, an autonomous vehicle company that is a subsidiary of General Motors, has plans to officially roll out self-driving vehicles in Dallas for passengers to get rides from in the coming months.
The company has been conducting supervised testing, which means a safety driver is behind the wheel while the AV drives autonomously, throughout Oak Lawn, Uptown, Downtown, Deep Ellum and Lower Greenville neighborhoods since early September.
“These AVs will operate 24/7 without a safety driver and Cruise employees will begin taking rides as we continue our final phase ahead of opening our driverless service to the public soon,” the company told NBC 5 in an email update last week.
However, the launch in Dallas comes as federal auto safety regulators also launch an investigation into the company’s vehicles striking pedestrians in other cities.
The investigation is to determine whether Cruise automated driving systems “exercised appropriate caution around pedestrians in the roadway,” a filing on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website said.
According to CNBC, the NHTSA opened the probe into Cruise on Monday.
The probe was prompted by two reports involving pedestrian injuries and Cruise vehicles in recent months. The agency also cited two other incidents it identified through “videos posted to public websites,” according to the filing.
One incident on Oct. 2 involved a situation where a pedestrian was thrown by another vehicle into the path of a driverless Cruise vehicle. That incident matches the details of a hit-and-run crash in San Francisco, which resulted in one pedestrian being transported to the hospital.
“Cruise’s safety record over 5 million miles continues to outperform comparable human drivers at a time when pedestrian injuries and deaths are at an all-time high,” Cruise spokesperson Hannah Lindow said in a statement to CNBC. “Cruise communicates regularly with NHTSA and has consistently cooperated with each of NHTSA’s requests for information — whether associated with an investigation or not — and we plan to continue doing so.”
CRUISE IN TEXAS
Other incidents have been reported in cities like Austin, where cruise has already officially launched with self-driving cars.
“The cruise car came to turn into Rio Grande and it was so close to hitting my car. I closed my eyes and just knew it was imminent. Luckily, it missed me,” said Austin resident Jinous Rouhani in an interview with NBC-affiliate KXAN. “The frequency of errors that I see on their part is very worrisome.”
There was even a viral moment in Austin last month when at least 20 cruise cars were stuck in a traffic jam near the University of Texas at Austin campus on a busy Saturday night.
The company told KXAN it was caused by several cruise cars getting calls in one area and when one car got stuck, it caused a domino effect.
A further statement to KXAN about the incident says, “We prioritize safety in everything we do. It was a crowded, challenging environment; and, there was no pedestrian, vehicle or property damage. We fully recognize the inconvenience, and we’ve taken proactive measures to relieve the crowding in the area.”
Cruise has not responded to NBC 5’s requests for comment or an interview since this federal probe was announced this week.
However, in a previous update last week regarding its final phase of testing in Dallas, a spokesperson said the company’s mission “has always been to make city transportation accessible, reliable, safe and delightful and we’re excited that we’ll be able to bring our service to Dallas and the surrounding communities soon.”
In a previous story with NBC 5 — according to company’s the safety record over the course of its first million driverless miles, Cruise AVs were involved in 54% fewer collisions overall and 73% fewer collisions with meaningful risk of injury when benchmarked against human drivers in a comparable driving environment.
Cruise already operates in Austin, Phoenix and its home of San Francisco, with plans to also begin services in Houston.
In Dallas, Cruise plans to start small in high-demand areas like downtown and busy business districts before expanding from there. The focus will be city streets before moving on to highway roads. Company officials said prices would be comparable to other ride-hailing companies.
There is a waitlist to be among the first to use the Cruise smartphone app on Apple and Android once it opens to the public. Click here to sign up.
Dallas will see another driverless ride-hailing option in the near future. Aurora Innovation – which has already tested vehicles in North Texas – is partnering with Toyota and Uber to launch self-driving vehicles next year.
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