Cruise updates software for autonomous vehicles after wreck

SAN FRANCISCO — An autonomous vehicle run by San Francisco-based Cruise LLC got into a wreck while making a left turn, causing the company to update software and recall 80 vehicles.

The unit of General Motors says the crash happened June 3. The company says it filed recall paperwork at the request of federal safety regulators and to be transparent with the public.

In documents posted Thursday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Cruise said one of its vehicles was making an unprotected left turn at an intersection when it was hit by an oncoming vehicle.

The oncoming vehicle was in a right turn lane dedicated to buses when it switched lanes and went straight, hitting the right rear of the Cruise car. The document says police found the other vehicle was the party most at fault for the crash.

Cruise began charging passengers for robotaxi rides in the Bay Area in June after getting approval from California regulators.

It wasn’t clear from the recall documents whether a passenger was riding in the Cruise vehicle or if anyone was injured. A message was left early Thursday seeking comment from Cruise.

Cruise says in the documents that the software update will prevent similar crashes in the future. The company says this was the first crash in more than 123,000 unprotected left turns made before the software change.

Cruise, a majority-owned subsidiary of GM, said the autonomous vehicle’s software determined that it needed to brake hard to avoid colliding with the oncoming vehicle, which it predicted would make a right turn into the robotaxi’s path. The oncoming vehicle was traveling about 40 miles per hour (64 kilometers per hour) in a lane with a 25 mph speed limit, the documents said.

“The Cruise AV (autonomous vehicle) had to decide between two different risk scenarios and chose the one with the least potential for a serious collision,” the company said in NHTSA documents.

The crash forced the Cruise fleet to stop making unprotected left turns until the software update was sent out on July 6. It also limited the areas where the vehicles could travel.

The new software improves the vehicles’ ability to predict where other vehicles will travel, “including the conditions similar to the singular, exceptional event that is the subject of this filing,” Cruise said in the documents.

The updated software would have picked a different path and avoided the crash, the company said.

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