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Unions urge US regulators to probe Waymo, Zoox after GM's Cruise driverless crashes

Published 11/09/2023, 09:24 AM
Updated 11/09/2023, 06:41 PM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Waymo rider-only robotaxi is seen during a test ride in San Francisco, California, U.S., December 9, 2022. REUTERS/Paresh Dave

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -More than two dozen unions urged U.S. auto safety regulators on Thursday to open an industry-wide probe into driverless vehicles including Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL)'s Waymo and Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN)'s Zoox.

The unions, including the Transportation Trades Department, Transport Workers Union of America, International Brotherhood of Teamsters and United Auto Workers, cited the recent investigation into General Motors (NYSE:GM)' self-driving Cruise unit and California's decision to suspend Cruise testing.

Driverless vehicles "are unsafe and untenable in their current form. This industry is in dire need of federal regulation and leadership to restore a modicum of safety and establish a realistic path for these vehicles to operate without threatening other road users," they said in a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Ann Carlson, acting administrator at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The letter also said workers are facing safety issues from robotaxis.

"NHTSA must initiate an industry-wide investigation to determine the true extent of the safety failures behind the scenes," the letter added.

Waymo, Zoox and NHTSA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The letter said it is time for NHTSA to "step up its regulatory authority to ensure these vehicles are being operated responsibly and with the serious oversight they require."

In March, NHTSA said it was probing the self-certification by Zoox in 2022 of a robotaxi without traditional driving controls.

Cruise, which reported a $700 million loss in the three months ending Sept. 30, said on Thursday it had made cuts to its contractor workforce "that supported driverless ride hail operations. These contingent workers were responsible for work such as cleaning, charging and maintaining the fleet."

Cruise on Wednesday recalled 950 driverless cars following a crash involving one of its robotaxis and will likely issue more recalls.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Waymo rider-only robotaxi is seen during a test ride in San Francisco, California, U.S., December 9, 2022. REUTERS/Paresh Dave

Last month, a pedestrian in San Francisco was struck by a hit-and-run driver and thrown into an adjacent lane, and was hit a second time by a Cruise robotaxi that was unable to stop in time and then dragged the pedestrian. The union letter said the pedestrian was dragged 20 feet (6.1 meters).

Cruise last month said it would halt operations nationwide after California regulators suspended the robotaxi operator's license, finding the self-driving vehicles to be a risk to the public. On Monday Cruise said it was temporarily halting production of its driverless Cruise Origin.

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