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Cruise Releases Third-Party Findings Regarding October 2


Today, Cruise is releasing the Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan report regarding the October 2, 2023 incident in San Francisco and Cruise’s subsequent interactions with regulators and the media. The Quinn Emanuel report makes important findings, conclusions, and recommendations regarding these events, which arose from an incident in which a hit-and-run driver tragically struck a pedestrian and launched her into the lane of travel of a Cruise AV, which unavoidably struck her. The Cruise AV, determining the collision to be a side impact with the pedestrian rather than frontal, pulled forward approximately 20 feet and dragged the individual in the process. This sequence of events caused serious injury. The hearts of all Cruise employees continue to be with the pedestrian and we hope for her ongoing recovery. 

On October 24, 2023, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) suspended Cruise’s driverless permits, stating in part that Cruise failed to disclose in a meeting on the morning after the incident that the Cruise AV had pulled forward after the initial impact and dragged the pedestrian. Following suspension of the permit and review of the DMV’s order, as previously announced, Cruise retained the law firm Quinn Emanuel to conduct a third-party review into the events of October 2 and Cruise’s subsequent interactions with regulators and the media. Cruise also hired the engineering consulting firm Exponent Inc. to conduct a root cause analysis of the October 2 incident. 

We are now making public the full Quinn Emanuel report and a cover letter sent to regulators. Understanding exactly where Cruise fell short will help both Cruise and the industry learn from the incident, strengthen protocols, and improve technology.  

Quinn Emanuel review

Quinn Emanuel’s review included interviews with 88 Cruise employees and contractors as well as review of over 200,000 internal Cruise documents. The report found that the evidence to date does not establish that Cruise leadership or personnel intended to deceive or mislead regulators during its oral briefings on October 3. The review shows that Cruise played, or attempted to play, a 45-second, nine-pane video (“Full Video”) depicting the AV’s pullover maneuver, where the AV pulled forward, resulting in the dragging of the pedestrian for approximately 20 feet. However, the report concludes that Cruise did not verbally point out these facts to regulators or government officials in its meetings, despite video transmission issues that impeded or prevented regulators from seeing the pullover maneuver and pedestrian dragging. Quinn Emanuel ascribes this to a failure of leadership within Cruise, inadequate and uncoordinated internal processes, mistakes in judgment, an “us versus them” mentality with government officials, and a fundamental misunderstanding of regulatory requirements and expectations.

Additionally, the review found that in the immediate hours after the incident, Cruise employees were not yet aware of the AV’s pullover maneuver or dragging at the time it issued its initial press statement and began screen-sharing an early video with journalists. However, the review also shows Cruise failed to update the press statement or share the full video once it became aware of these facts. Quinn Emanuel attributes this to a myopic focus on correcting the initial inaccurate media narrative that the Cruise AV, rather than the human driver, had caused the incident.

Quinn Emanuel findings

Quinn Emanuel has reached the following principal findings and conclusions, which we are sharing verbatim here: 

  • By the morning of October 3, Cruise leadership knew about and discussed that the Cruise AV had moved forward after the initial pedestrian impact and, in doing so, had dragged the pedestrian for approximately 20 feet. More than 100 Cruise employees – including certain members of Cruise’s senior leadership, legal, government affairs, and systems integrity teams who briefed government officials – were informed of this information prior to Cruise’s meetings on October 3 with the San Francisco Mayor’s Office, NHTSA, DMV, and other government officials. In each of those meetings, Cruise had the intent to affirmatively disclose those material facts by playing the Full Video and letting the “video speak for itself.” Because Cruise adopted that approach, it did not verbally point out these facts. This is because Cruise assumed that by playing the Full Video of the Accident for its regulators and other government officials, they would ask questions and Cruise would provide further information about the pullover maneuver and pedestrian dragging.

  • The weight of the evidence establishes that Cruise played or attempted to play the Full Video depicting the pedestrian dragging in their October 3 briefings with the regulators and other government officials. However, in three of these meetings, internet connectivity issues likely precluded or hampered them from seeing the Full Video clearly and fully. And Cruise failed to augment the Full Video by affirmatively pointing out the pullover maneuver and dragging of the pedestrian.

  • On October 2 and 3, Cruise leadership was fixated on correcting the inaccurate media narrative that the Cruise AV, not the Nissan, had caused the Accident. This myopic focus led Cruise to convey the information about the Nissan hit-and-run driver having caused the Accident to the media, regulators, and other government officials, but to omit other important information about the Accident. Even after obtaining the Full Video, Cruise did not correct the public narrative but continued instead to share incomplete facts and video about the Accident with the media and the public. This conduct has caused both regulators and the media to accuse Cruise of misleading them.

  • The reasons for Cruise’s failings in this instance are numerous: poor leadership, mistakes in judgment, lack of coordination, an “us versus them” mentality with regulators, and a fundamental misapprehension of Cruise’s obligations of accountability and transparency to the government and the public. Cruise must take decisive steps to address these issues in order to restore trust and credibility. 

  • Despite the failure to discuss the pullover maneuver or pedestrian dragging with regulators, the evidence reviewed to date does not establish that Cruise leadership or employees sought to intentionally mislead or hide from regulators the details of the October 2 Accident. Instead, they attempted to show the Full Video of the Accident in good faith, but with varying degrees of success due to technical issues. 

  • Finally, the DMV Suspension Order is a direct result of a proverbial self-inflicted wound by certain senior Cruise leadership and employees who appear not to have fully appreciated how a regulated business should interact with its regulators. Regulators and other government officials who enforce laws and regulations designed to protect human health and safety want and need to know all relevant facts about an accident involving a regulated product. It was a fundamentally flawed approach for Cruise or any other business to take the position that a video of an accident causing serious injury provides all necessary information to regulators and otherwise relieves them of the need to affirmatively and fully inform these regulators of all relevant facts. As one Cruise employee stated in a text message to another employee about this matter, our “leaders have failed us.”

Quinn Emanuel recommendations and our actions to date  

Cruise accepts Quinn Emanuel’s conclusions and will act on all of their recommendations (listed on pages 99-104). We acknowledge that we have failed to live up to the justifiable expectations of regulators and the communities we serve. In doing so, we also fell woefully short of our own expectations. We are profoundly remorseful both for the injuries to the pedestrian, as well as for breaching the trust of our regulators, the media, and the public. We are fully cooperating with the state and federal regulatory and enforcement agencies which have opened investigations or inquiries in connection with the incident, including the California DMV, the California Public Utilities Commission, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Cruise takes these findings seriously and is committed to increased transparency, enhanced safety, and collaborative engagement with our stakeholders. We have made significant process improvements and operational and technical changes, and this work is ongoing. For example:

  • We voluntarily paused all of Cruise’s nationwide driverless, supervised, and manual AV driving operations in order to take time to examine our processes, systems, and tools and improve how we operate.

  • Given Cruise’s deficient response to the October 2 incident, nine individuals departed Cruise in December, including key leaders from Legal, Government Affairs, Commercial Operations, and Safety and Systems. In addition, Cruise’s CEO, Chief Product Officer, and VP of Communications have departed since the October 2 incident. 

  • Cruise has established a new Chief Safety Officer role and appointed an interim leader while the search is underway for a permanent hire.

  • Experienced leaders from GM have stepped in to support Cruise’s Legal, Government Affairs, and Communications teams as well as to establish more robust and transparent processes for working with our regulators and engaging with the public. 

Exponent technical root cause analysis 

A redacted version of the Exponent report, omitting confidential business information, is included as an appendix to the Quinn Emanuel report. Exponent’s analysis focused on identifying the technical root cause and contributing factors relevant to the AV’s overall behavior, responses, and actions during the incident. The causal factors determined by Exponent and described below are consistent with Cruise’s own internal analysis of the incident. 

First, leading up to the initial collision between the human-driven vehicle and pedestrian, the AV accurately detected, classified, and tracked both the pedestrian and the human-driven vehicle. Second, the subsequent collision of the AV with the pedestrian was caused by the individual being launched into the AV’s path of travel by the human-driven vehicle. Third, the AV incorrectly classified the collision with the pedestrian as a side-impact collision, which led the AV to perform a subsequent pullover maneuver (to the outermost lane) instead of an emergency stop. In addition, while not a leading cause of the pullover movement, a semantic mapping error that failed to recognize that the AV was already in the outermost lane was a contributing factor.

Based on our internal analysis, we have updated the software to address the underlying issues and filed a voluntary recall with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in November. We are constantly working to improve performance of our AV technology in consultation with third-party experts.

Moving forward 

We believe that, over time, autonomous vehicles can significantly reduce the number and severity of car collisions which result in more than 40,000 deaths on U.S. roads each year. This is what motivates our work. We know our license to operate must be earned and is ultimately granted by regulators and the communities we serve. We are focused on advancing our technology and earning back public trust.