Former NHTSA head blasts Cruise’s ‘People are terrible drivers’ advert

A former administrator of the Nationwide Freeway Site visitors Security Administration (NHTSA) has responded to a full-page advert taken out in a number of main newspapers by Cruise, Common Motors’ self-driving subsidiary, that calls humans awful drivers.

The advert factors to the almost 43,000 crash fatalities in 2022 and promotes autonomous autos as the answer.

“Utilizing the ache and struggling of these deaths for self-promotion of an unproven and unsafe product is unscrupulous,” mentioned Joan Claybrook, a lawyer who served as head of NHTSA from 1977 to 1981, and as president of client advocacy group Public Citizen from 1982 to 2009.

Claybrook known as the advert a ploy from GM to recoup a few of its funding within the billions of {dollars} spent to develop Cruise’s self-driving autos. In line with GM’s 2022 earnings report, the automaker misplaced $1.9 billion on Cruise in 2022, up from $1.2 billion in 2021. GM has mentioned it expects Cruise to herald $50 billion yearly in income by 2030.

Cruise printed the advert final week within the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Instances, the Los Angeles Instances and The Sacramento Bee. The message from Cruise got here because the California Public Utilities Fee delayed, for the second time, a listening to on increasing Cruise’s and competitor Waymo’s permits to cost for robotaxi rides all through town 24/7, amid mounting stress from opposition.

“You could be driver, however many people aren’t,” reads the advert. “Folks trigger hundreds of thousands of accidents yearly within the US. Cruise driverless automobiles are designed to save lots of lives.”

Within the advert, Cruise factors to its “1 Million Mile Security Report,” developed with the College of Michigan Transportation Analysis Institute and Virginia Tech Transportation Institute to match naturalistic human ride-hail driving to Cruise’s autonomous driver. The research discovered that Cruise autos, which have collected over 1 million miles of driving, resulted in 53% fewer collisions, 92% fewer collisions as the first contributor and 73% fewer collisions with significant danger of harm when benchmarked in opposition to human drivers in a comparable driving setting.

“A million miles travelled by autonomous autos (AVs) at first look might look like a considerable quantity however is lower than 0.00003 p.c of the greater than three trillion miles pushed yearly on U.S. roads,” mentioned Claybrook in a press release launched by Advocates for Freeway and Auto Security. “Moreover, it’s infinitesimal in comparison with the 310 billion miles pushed in California every year. By comparability, in a single work week, human ride-hailing drivers in San Francisco have been almost tripling the a million miles Cruise took a yr to build up.”

Claybrook known as Cruise’s security report restricted and its course of opaque, noting that Cruise has not launched the comparative research from the schools it partnered with within the report. A spokesperson for Cruise advised TechCrunch the corporate can’t share the research with out the permission of College of Michigan and Virginia Tech.

Whereas Cruise’s AVs haven’t been in any deadly accidents whereas driving in San Francisco, the corporate has come below fireplace for malfunctioning autos stopping in the midst of site visitors, blocking different autos, emergency autos and public transit. A mixture of aggravated residents, San Francisco’s fireplace chief, the law enforcement officials’ affiliation and the SFMTA have all expressed considerations concerning the security and efficacy of AVs after many such incidents.

In response to Cruise autos changing into immobilized whereas working on public roads and incidents when the robotaxis might have engaged in inappropriately arduous braking, NHTSA final December opened a preliminary investigation into the autos. The company didn’t reply in time to TechCrunch to supply an replace.