GM inserts exec at Cruise as safety review expands, manual self driving paused

General Motors is taking a more active role in shaping Cruise’s safety culture, following a series of incidents that prompted California regulators to suspend permits this allowed the self-driving car subsidiary to operate commercially in the state. The former automaker is appointing one of its own executives, who is also a Cruise board member, to lead the self-driving car maker’s legal and policy, communications and financial teams.

Craig Glidden, GM’s senior vice president of legal and policy affairs and Cruise board member, will become Cruise’s chief administrative officer. Glidden will oversee workflows around transparency and community engagement, according to Cruise.

Cruise said it would also suspend all supervised and manual autonomous vehicle operations in the United States, which the company said affects some 70 vehicles. Cruise had already has voluntarily suspended all its driverless operations in cities across the country, including Houston, Austin and Phoenix, to “rebuild public trust” after an Oct. 2 event in which a pedestrian, who had been struck by a vehicle driven by a human, was run over and dragged 20 feet by a cruise robo-taxi.

“This ordered pause is a further step in restoring public confidence while we conduct a comprehensive safety review,” according to a report. blog post of the company announcing the changes.

Beginning of November, Cruise hired consulting firm Exponent perform a technical analysis of the root causes of the October 2 incident. The company announced Tuesday that its mandate would expand to include a comprehensive review of all Cruise safety systems and technologies.

The cruise board also announced it will hire a third-party security expert in the coming weeks to fully evaluate the company’s operations and security culture. The move follows the lead of other AV companies, including those that have faced increased scrutiny over security practices. Uber ATG, the ride-hailing company’s former autonomous vehicle unit, hired former National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Christopher Hart to advise the company on its safety culture following the deadly self-driving car crash in May 2018 in Arizona.

The outside security expert adds to last week’s announcement that Cruise will hire a security manager who will report directly to Vogt. Other AV companies such as Aurora have dedicated security managers. Cruise did not respond in time to confirm whether the company previously had a dedicated manager overseeing security within the company.

An investigation which Blind, an anonymous forum for verified employees conducted for TechCrunch, found that half of Cruise employees have no confidence at all (32%) or only little confidence (18%) in Cruise’s safety culture. More than three-quarters of 136 Cruise employees surveyed Nov. 7-8 said they thought Cruise was trying to evolve too quickly.

The changes come a day after Cruise and GM held a board meeting to discuss next steps for the struggling AV company. CEO Kyle Vogt warned staff last week that layoffs were coming, then the company started laying off contract workers.

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