July 19, 2024

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GM bet big on Cruise, now its CEO departs under a cloud

2 min read

General Motors chief executive Mary Barra’s dreams of fostering promising young tech startup Cruise into a future cash cow for GM are turning to smoke following the departure of its founder and CEO, Kyle Vogt.

His stunning fall from grace serves as a warning to Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Silicon Valley writ large of just how quickly trust and goodwill among the public can evaporate when it comes to artificial intelligence.

Only four months ago, Cruise and its rival Waymo received the go-ahead to offer their services in San Francisco around the clock, in a victory for the fledgling industry.

“I plan to spend time with my family and explore some new features,” Vogt posted on Sunday in a thread, scrupulously avoiding to a fault any mention of the Oct. 2 incident that sparked the move. 

That evening, his company became involved in a hit-and-run accident after a pedestrian struck by a human-operated car was propelled into the oncoming path of a Cruise robotaxi that accidentally pinned her underneath.

Even though the driver, who fled the scene and remains at large, shoulders much of the blame, Vogt’s company had already in the doghouse after another of his vehicles collided with a fire truck in August. 

Cruise, whose fleet had subsequently been cut in half, then multiplied its problems by omitting key facts around the Oct. 2 accident, according to California officials. This prompted the state’s department of motor vehicles to revoke its licenses and suspend its fleet.

In the aftermath, Cruise grounded its entire fleet of robotaxis to earn the public’s trust again. That now leaves Google’s Waymo as potentially the last man standing in the U.S., after Ford pulled the plug on Cruise rival Argo AI late last year. 

By comparison, Musk has shrewdly avoided any temptation to move beyond beta-testing his autonomous cars by…

Christiaan Hetzner

2023-11-20 08:12:59

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