Cruise relaunches autonomous vehicle fleet in Houston amid federal investigation – Houston Public Media

Cruise, a California subsidiary of General Motors, plans to launch a driverless ride-hailing service in Houston in 2023.


Cruise, a California subsidiary of General Motors, plans to launch a driverless ride-hailing service in Houston in 2023.

General Motors’ Cruise has resumed testing its self-driving vehicles in Houston months after the defective cars were taken off the streets pending a federal investigation, a spokesperson said Tuesday.

The company will begin its relaunch in Houston with drivers behind the wheel of autonomous vehicles tasked with creating map data and collecting road information. The company’s fleet began road testing again in Phoenix in April after a short hiatus and a personnel shakeup.

The vehicles remain the subject of a federal investigation launched last year by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation, after several reports of driverless cars injuring pedestrians.

The administration’s Office of Defects Investigation received at least two reports of pedestrians being injured by vehicles and two other relevant incidents. In October, one of the robo-taxis dragged a pedestrian in San Francisco for about 20 feet after being hit by another vehicle.

That incident led regulators to suspend the company’s operating license in California, according to the Associated Press. During their testing phase in Houston for a short period of a few months last year, the vehicles were quick to provoke backlash after causing a major backup on Montrose Boulevard, triggered by a malfunctioning traffic light .

RELATED: Despite concerns, driverless car maker aims for Houston launch by end of 2023

General Motors’ chief financial officer announced that the company would invest $850 million in Cruise to “meet operational cash flow needs as we continue to advance our audio-visual technology,” according to a press release.

Autonomous vehicle technology learns from information gleaned from driving data, which helps cars continually retrain and evolve their models, according to the company.

In an open letter posted on Cruise’s website, the company said it had “carefully reviewed” standards, processes and systems, guided by external expert reviews since reports of vehicle malfunctions in October last year.

The company’s fleet in Houston will initially consist of human-driven vehicles before moving to a supervised autonomous driving phase in the coming weeks.