California regulators have largely acquiesced to General Motors’ requests to expand its fleet of self-driving robot cars. But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been a few, uh, bumps in the road for GM’s Cruise Automation division.
Reuters reported Thursday that the number of accidents involving GM’s self-driving cars has continued to climb, even as California and one powerful Senate committee have done everything in their power to hasten advances in the technology by allowing companies broad remit to increase the size of their fleets, while simultaneously green lighting a bill that would allow automakers to expand testing programs across the US.
To wit, GM’s self-driving cars were involved in 6 accidents during the month of September – a month where the company finished expanding its fleet of self-driving cars from around 30 or 40 cars to more than 100.
As the company increases the size of its test fleet, it has also reported more run-ins between its self-driving cars and human-operated vehicles and bicycles, telling California regulators its vehicles were involved in six minor crashes in the state in September.
“All our incidents this year were caused by the other vehicle,” said Rebecca Mark, spokeswoman for GM Cruise.
We’re not certain the unsuspecting cyclists, drivers and pedestrians who comprised the other party in many of these incidents would agree with GM’s characterization of events.
The company has been testing the automated cars on busy San Francisco streets as part of its effort to develop software capable of navigating congested and often chaotic urban environments, an effort that one might expect to be fraught with complications given that the slightest error on the car’s part can be easily amplified given the volume of traffic.
Ford and GM have been richly rewarded by investors for their pioneering efforts in the world of self-driving car technology (Wired, the tech bible, even published a story proclaiming that “Detroit Is Stomping Silicon Valley in the Self-Driving Car Race”). GM shares are up 17% this year.
However, California’s permissiveness has raised hackles with some vehicle safety groups, who claim the state is giving too much latitude to automakers.
In filings to California regulators, Cruise said the six accidents in the state last month involved other cars and a bicyclist hitting its test cars.
The accidents did not result in injuries or serious damage, according to the GM reports. In total, GM Cruise vehicles have been involved in 13 collisions reported to California regulators in 2017, while Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Waymo vehicles have been involved in three crashes.
Last year, a Tesla owner died in a fatal crash while the company’s autopilot feature was engaged. Excuse us for being morbid, but much longer until a car with no driver is involved in a deadly crash?
And what will happen to GM’s share price when that happens?