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Cruise leaders booted following initial safety probe into robotaxi incident

Nine Cruise managers and executives who worked in commercial operations, legal and policy department have left GM’s self-driving vehicle subsidiary following an initial internal analysis of the October 2 incident that left a pedestrian stuck under and then dragged by one of its robotaxis.

The departures were shared with employees via an internal Slack message. Cruise spokesperson Erik Moser confirmed the departures and shared a statement, but declined to comment on whether these employees were fired. TechCrunch was able to identify that David Estrada, who left autonomous vehicle startup Nuro in July to head up Cruise’s government affairs department, and COO Gil West were among those who were dismissed. West has since updated his LinkedIn profile indicating his employment ended.

“Today, following an initial analysis of the October 2 incident and Cruise’s response to it, nine individuals departed Cruise. These include key leaders from Legal, Government Affairs, and Commercial Operations, as well as Safety and Systems. As a company, we are committed to full transparency and are focused on rebuilding trust and operating with the highest standards when it comes to safety, integrity, and accountability and believe that new leadership is necessary to achieve these goals.”

The initial analysis was conducted by the Cruise board and is not part of the investigation led by firm Quinn Emmanuel, which has yet to be released.

The departures come three weeks after co-founder and CEO Kyle Vogt resigned and less than two months after the California Department of Motor Vehicles suspended Cruise’s permits to operate self-driving vehicles on public roads after an October 2 incident that saw a pedestrian — who had been initially hit by a human-driven car and landed in the path of a Cruise robotaxi — run over and dragged 20 feet by the AV. A video, which TechCrunch viewed a day after the incident, showed the robotaxi braking aggressively and coming to a stop over the woman. The DMV’s order of suspension stated that Cruise withheld about seven seconds of video footage, which showed the robotaxi then attempting to pull over and subsequently dragging the woman 20 feet.

Morale at Cruise has been low since the October 2 incident, with employees pointing the finger at poor management that didn’t prioritize safety at the company. Without commercial permits to operate in San Francisco and an internal decision to pause its driverless fleets in other states, the company laid off contract workers, further deepening the malaise.

Initial layoffs affected contract workers who had jobs cleaning, charging and maintaining the vehicles as well as answering customer support inquiries. Not all contingent workers, who are employed by a third party, were laid off. More layoffs affecting full-time employees are expected this month.

Source: Tech Crunch