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Cruise fires nine executives

by Pieter Werner

General Motors’ autonomous vehicle division, Cruise, has recently undergone significant leadership changes following a safety investigation. This development included the departure of nine executives, as indicated in a company memo. The departures notably include Chief Operating Officer Gil West and other high-ranking officials like Chief Legal and Policy Officer Jeff Bleich and Senior Vice President of Government Affairs David Estrada.

The reorganization at Cruise comes in the wake of an incident on October 2, where a pedestrian was hit and dragged by a Cruise robotaxi in San Francisco. This incident prompted a comprehensive review of the company’s safety protocols, leading to a temporary halt of their vehicle testing across the United States. The review also resulted in the resignations of CEO Kyle Vogt and co-founder Dan Kan, and the company is preparing for further layoffs.

Cruise, in a statement, emphasized its commitment to transparency and rebuilding trust, underscoring the importance of new leadership to meet high standards in safety, integrity, and accountability. The personnel changes are seen as a crucial step towards achieving these objectives.

The repercussions of this incident extend beyond Cruise, impacting the wider autonomous vehicle industry, which heavily relies on public trust and regulatory cooperation. Prior to these developments, Cruise had ambitious plans to expand its fully autonomous taxi services to more cities.

The safety probe, conducted by the law firm Quinn Emmanuel, is anticipated to conclude by January. In response to the October incident, the California Department of Motor Vehicles had instructed Cruise to withdraw its driverless cars from state roads, citing public risk and misrepresentation of safety capabilities. Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration initiated an investigation into pedestrian safety concerns related to Cruise’s operations. The company potentially faces up to $1.5 million in fines and other sanctions for not adequately disclosing details about the accident.

Cruise’s new president, Mo Elshenawy, who assumed the role last month, acknowledged at a recent company meeting that the unit is facing challenging times. The ongoing situation and the resultant leadership shakeup mark a pivotal moment for Cruise as it navigates through the complexities of advancing autonomous vehicle technology while ensuring public safety.

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