Cruise knew its driverless cars endangered children

Driverless taxi company Cruise, famous for beleaguering the streets of San Francisco, was recently banned in California. Recent investigations by the Department of Motor Vehicles, spurred on when a Cruise vehicle killed a woman, dragging her twenty feet down the road, have brought to light that the cars also had problems identifying and avoiding children.

The Intercept:

Even before its public relations crisis of recent weeks, though, previously unreported internal materials such as chat logs show Cruise has known internally about two pressing safety issues: Driverless Cruise cars struggled to detect large holes in the road and have so much trouble recognizing children in certain scenarios that they risked hitting them. Yet, until it came under fire this month, Cruise kept its fleet of driverless taxis active, maintaining its regular reassurances of superhuman safety.

"This strikes me as deeply irresponsible at the management level to be authorizing and pursuing deployment or driverless testing, and to be publicly representing that the systems are reasonably safe," said Bryant Walker Smith, a University of South Carolina law professor and engineer who studies automated driving.

Ethical lapses like these are how we get Skynet. The company statement translates to "not us, but if it is us, we didn't mean it."

In a statement, a spokesperson for Cruise reiterated the company's position that a future of autonomous cars will reduce collisions and road deaths. "Our driverless operations have always performed higher than a human benchmark, and we constantly evaluate and mitigate new risks to continuously improve," said Erik Moser, Cruise's director of communications. "We have the lowest risk tolerance for contact with children and treat them with the highest safety priority. No vehicle — human operated or autonomous — will have zero risk of collision."

Cruise has now patched their cars, to help lower the instances of driving over small and already knocked down people type objects.

More specifically: the update is intended to make the onboard driving software better at realizing when the car's hit a person who is already down low or on the ground, and making sure the autonomous vehicle (AV) doesn't make the situation worse by pulling over and further injuring the victim.

"In certain circumstances, a collision may occur, after which the Collision Detection Subsystem may cause the Cruise AV to attempt to pull over out of traffic instead of remaining stationary when a pullover is not the desired post-collision response," the biz said in its notice. 

"This issue could occur after a collision with a pedestrian positioned low on the ground in the path of the AV," Cruise added. 

The Register