GM’s Cruise reworks self-driving software after Crash • The Register

General Motors’ autonomous unit Cruise has issued a safety recall report pulling software that governs how its AVs behave when making unprotected left turns after one of the vehicles was involved in an accident.

An unprotected left turn is when you want to make a turn at an intersection where oncoming traffic (either turning right or going straight) has the right-of-way.

The faulty software apparently caused its AV to brake hard mid-left turn when it incorrectly predicted an oncoming Prius would make a right turn on a June evening in San Francisco, one of the cities where it has permits to test its AV Technology. The Prius eventually went straight through the intersection and crashed into the rear passenger side of the Cruise AV.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report claimed the oncoming vehicle was traveling “well above the speed limit” – estimated at about 40 mph in a 25 mph zone (c 64 km/h in a 40 km/h Zone) – in the right turn/bus lane only when the Cruise AV attempted to turn left unprotected.

It also noted that the police report stated, among other things, that the “biggest culprit” in the collision was the other vehicle because it was “driving reasonably or cautiously at a speed greater than that in the right-hand turning lane.”

The automaker explained that its reflective planner function “detected a frontal collision risk caused by a speeding vehicle, which reasonably indicated it was about to turn right because it was in the right turning lane.” The Cruise AV stopped to avoid the risk of collision and clear a path for the other vehicle. The Cruise AV had to choose between two different risk scenarios and choose the one with the least potential for a serious collision.”

According to an accident report by the California DMV [PDF] Signed by Todd Brugger, Cruise’s VP of Global Markets, two people were injured when the 2022 Cruise collided with a 2016 model Prius. The Cruise was towed from the scene and the occupants of both vehicles received medical treatment for what were believed to be minor injuries.

The company said it has disabled unprotected left turns in the fleet, updated software and is working with NHTSA on damage control. Cruise released a new software update on July 6, 2022, which it claimed improves the prediction performance of its automated driving system in several ways – saying that after the update, under the same conditions as the June 3 crash, “the ADS would have selected a different path that avoided the collision.” It also said it would “gradually” reintroduce the ability to make unprotected left turns in its fleet.

GM’s AV unit said in the NHTSA [PDF] report that the Cruise Automated Driving Systems (ADS) software version (Delta/2022.05.13.00) was running on 80 of its self-propelled units.

We asked Cruise for comment, and it said the “voluntary” submission would “not affect or alter our current road operations.” It added that “through our normal course of continuous improvement, Cruise AVs are even better equipped to prevent this unique, extraordinary event.”

Robotaxi permit

The crash happened just on the evening of June 3rd in San Francisco Someday after the company received its crucial California permit to carry paying passengers in driverless cars – becoming the first company to do so in the state. Waymo has permission from the California Public Utilities Commission to charge for robotaxi rides, but it requires a human “safety driver” to be behind the wheel.

The company launched paid services with 30 driverless Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles on June 22 after the autonomous car unit appeared to fend off objections from city officials.

Onlookers at the San Franscico Civic Center in July neighborhood claimed a “bunch” of Cruise’s driverless vehicles stopped and blocked an intersection, preventing nearby traffic from moving for several hours. The alleged incident was apparently mentioned by the author of an anonymous letter to the California Public Utilities Commission, which claimed Cruise wanted to launch its commercial Robotaxi service too early, the authorities said Wall Street Journal.

Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt said NBC the day after the paid robotaxi launched: “For the first time, we got members of the public to use their phones, hail a driverless robotic taxi (so that a car pulls up with no people in it) and they took a ride and they became pays for rides, so Cruise is officially open.”

“So last night we had a handful of rides, our first earnings from our ride service, we had a bunch of 5 star reviews. We hear the same thing from people every time: They get in the car, they’re a little scared, [but] after 3 or 4 minutes you are completely locked in, you are having a good time, it feels like pure magic. And after the ride, people think about it and say, “I felt like that was actually my place — I had the privacy and comfort of my own cabin. I wasn’t in someone else’s room.'”

He added, “We hear from a lot of women who say they feel a lot safer driving home in a car at night with nobody in it they don’t know.”

He said Automotive News in March that “the technical barriers to going from one city to three cities to 10 cities are very, very small compared to the amount of work it took to get to the number 1 city.”

As of September 30, 2021, California’s DMV has approved the deployment of autonomous vehicles from just three companies: Cruise, Nuro Inc, and Google’s Waymo. When it comes to testing autonomous vehicle technology, that number jumps to six. In contrast, semi-autonomous Lexus vehicles are equipped with Apple self-driving technology – as are those of 48 other companies, including Tesla – are legal for single-driver testing on state roads only. Tesla says a human must always be in control when its Autopilot self-driving software is engaged.

You can’t actually buy a Cruise AV — it’s never been offered for sale to third parties, and the idea is that GM will eventually run an autonomous taxi service. ® GM’s Cruise reworks self-driving software after Crash • The Register

Laura Coffey

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