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California regulators weigh a do-over for Cruise’s robotaxi permit

Image Credits: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

California regulators have issued an order to halt the implementation of Cruise's permit to charge for robotaxi rides across San Francisco 24/7 as they consider the city's request for a redo of the hearing that granted the permit.

The action by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is in addition to the agency's October 24 automatic suspension of Cruise's authority to carry passengers in driverless AVs, following a suspension of Cruise's driverless permits from the state's Department of Motor Vehicles.

The agencies suspended Cruise’s permits after an October 2 incident in which a pedestrian who was struck by a human driver and then landed in the adjacent lane was then run over by a Cruise robotaxi. The robotaxi hard braked and came to a stop with the pedestrian under the vehicle. The robotaxi then attempted to pull over, dragging the woman some 20 feet. That final decision by the robotaxi to attempt to pull over was part of the reason the agencies decided to suspend the permit.

The CPUC originally approved the permits for both Cruise and Waymo in August, despite mounting opposition for expanded robotaxi operations. San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu formally requested a rehearing in September on behalf of city transit and planning officials.

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On Thursday, the CPUC said Cruise's permit will be stayed until the commission acts on San Francisco's application for rehearing. This does not mean the CPUC has necessarily agreed to a rehearing; only that it is reviewing the request and wants to hold off on any actions related to it until they've had a chance to consider the matter.

Chiu also requested a rehearing for Waymo's expanded permit, which was approved in conjunction with Cruise's. The CPUC voted to deny that rehearing request.

Cruise had been touting its technology as safer than a human driver in the months leading to this downfall. Now the company is fighting for its life.

The order staying the resolution is the latest in a string of setbacks for Cruise, all spiraling out of the October 2 incident. Cruise has also voluntarily paused all of its driverless operations across the country, which includes Phoenix, Houston and Austin, and recalled its entire fleet as it works to earn back public trust. The company has also halted production of its purpose-built AV, the Origin, and today began implementing layoffs to contingency workers.