Cruz was forced to bolster his settlement offer at a hearing over the California accident

Cruz was forced to bolster his settlement offer at a hearing over the California accident

A California judge forced General Motors’ (GM) self-driving Cruise unit to increase its settlement offer to the maximum amount, after one of the company’s robotaxis struck and seriously injured a pedestrian in October.

On October 2, a driverless Cruise car pulled over and pinned a pedestrian in San Francisco, and the company’s license to operate self-driving cars was immediately revoked by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The DMV later said Cruz “misrepresented” and “omitted” important details about its response to the incident, and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in December ordered the company to appear before a judge this month.

During the hearing, held on Tuesday, California Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Robert Mason III suggested that Cruz revise her proposed settlement offer of $75,000 to a maximum penalty of $112,500, after calling the amount “low” and even noting that The company is seeking a discount.”

While Judge Mason III said he appreciated Cruz’s attempt to take “corrective action” in its response to the incident, he added that the company should “take a hint” after his multiple questions about the offer amount, directly suggesting that Cruz change her settlement offer. To the full penalty.

“Point taken, Your Honor,” responded Craig Glidden, Cruise’s president and chief administrative officer. “We are immediately reviewing our offer for the requested amount.”

The hearing discussed the findings of the investigation conducted by the law firm Quinn Emanuel, which Cruz hired, including that Internet access hindered the company from sharing video footage of the accident with regulators in meetings following the accident.

In response to the motion to approve the $75,000 settlement, the commission could approve, certify with revisions, or deny Cruz’s request. After the hearing, the next step is for Judge Mason to write a proposed decision on the case for the commissioner to consider, with the general timeframe falling within approximately 60 days, a CPUC spokesperson explained to Teslarati.

Cruz said she was eager to resolve the case and move the incident behind her, adding that she wanted to continue “advancing the mission of bringing self-driving cars that are safer to the public and also more accessible to the public.”

However, Mason did not make it seem as if the committee was keen to put the issue aside:

“While the commission stands by resolving its issues, I don’t know that this is one of those protracted litigations that we’re usually so eager to put aside and then move forward with the regulatory process.” Mason added.

In the original proposal, filed on January 30, Cruz outlines basic requirements he must follow as part of the settlement:

1. Cruise will voluntarily adopt several new data reporting enhancements that will provide additional data to the Commission relating to California collisions and autonomous vehicles operating in California under a deployment permit that enters Minimum Risk Condition (“MRC”) and results in the conditions described in the attachment a;

2. Cruise will provide the Commission with Cruise’s responses to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) recertification questions at the same time that Cruise provides those responses to the DMV;

3. Cruz will pay $75,000 to the State General Fund within ten (10) days of the Commission’s approval of the Settlement Agreement without modification; And

4. After the Commission approves the settlement agreement, the OSC proceedings will be closed.

Cruz also noted that the accident, which occurred after a human driver struck a pedestrian, was caused in part by the driverless car incorrectly identifying the accident as a side collision rather than a frontal collision, causing the MRC to call a response that makes the car stop.

Additionally, Cruz said she expects to appoint a new chief safety officer in the “not too distant future,” after two co-founders resigned in the wake of the incident, and after the company fired nine executives in December. Cruise also laid off nearly a quarter of its employees on the same day.

GM recently announced plans to cut cruise spending in half this year, though it said it also hopes to “refocus and relaunch” the company’s operations. GM CEO Mary Barra highlighted important changes to Cruze, which the company began implementing following the Quinn Emanuel investigation.

“At Cruise, we are committed to restoring the trust of regulators and the public through our commitments and actions,” Barra said following GM’s 2023 earnings call.

You can see the full January 30 filing from Cruz below, including the findings of the Quinn Emanuel investigation, which Cruz announced last month, below.

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