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Cruise vehicles will once again roam the streets of Houston with drivers

Cruise, General Motors’ autonomous transportation company, is set to reappear on Houston’s streets, six months after the company paused its nascent service nationwide.

This time with human drivers in a handful of cars.

Cruise initially launched in Houston last October but suspended domestic testing after a crash in San Francisco left a woman with life-threatening injuries.

The hiatus is now over, with the company announcing its cars will return to Houston-area streets Tuesday, albeit with human drivers for now. These drivers will validate previous vehicle data and collect more data when the service returns to driverless mode.

The company did not offer a timetable for when it hopes to have the driverless service operational again.

Instead, the company hopes a slower, more deliberate rollout will rebuild trust with local communities and gain feedback while making vehicles compliant with new internal safety standards. A company spokesperson said there will be three chauffeur-driven vehicles in Bellaire, West University Place and The Villages, with hopes of eventually expanding to the Fifth Ward area. The company has dozens of vehicles in Houston.

In the months since Cruise vehicles were taken off the road, the company has undergone dramatic changes. The company’s CEO, chief product officer and vice president of communications left the company, along with nine others.

An independent investigation into Cruise’s response to the Oct. 2 crash also led the company to review its relationships with targeted community deployments. The survey found an “us versus them” attitude among employees toward regulators and government officials.

Cruise has since hired a safety manager to oversee accident reporting and lead a review board before moving to a driverless phase.

The change also focused on collaboration with local authorities. A company spokesperson said the company has been in contact with Mayor John Whitmire’s administration throughout the process of getting the vehicles back on the road.

“We are committed to working closely with Houston officials as partners sharing updates and changes as our work progresses,” a Cruise spokesperson said in an email. email.

The town hall did not respond to a request for comment.

The commitment to staying connected with local governments, communities and regulators is important with Senate Bill 2205 threatening any autonomous vehicle policy development in Texas.

SB 2205, passed in 2017, only authorizes the Texas Department of Public Safety to regulate autonomous vehicles. It explicitly prohibits other state agencies and subdivisions from developing regulations specific to autonomous vehicles.

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