GM Cruise probe finds poor leadership at center of accident response

Chevrolet Cruise autonomous vehicles sit parked in a lot in San Francisco, June 8, 2023.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Culture issues, ineptitude and poor leadership at General Motors’ Cruise autonomous vehicle unit were at the center of regulatory oversights and coverup concerns that have plagued the company since October, according to the findings of a third-party probe.

The report addresses, in part, controversy that has swirled around Cruise since an Oct. 2 accident in which a pedestrian in San Francisco was dragged 20 feet by a Cruise robotaxi after being struck by a separate vehicle. Results of the investigation, which reviewed whether Cruise representatives misled investigators or members of the media in discussing the incident, were published Thursday in a 105-page report.

Despite the findings, which pointed to widespread issues with company culture, the third-party probe found that the evidence to date “does not establish that Cruise leadership or personnel intended to deceive or mislead regulators” during briefings a day after the accident, according to a summary of the report released by Cruise.

Cruise remains under investigation by several entities, including the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Several Cruise leaders and employees — most of whom are no longer employed by the company — attempted to show regulators a video of the incident, according to the findings, but were only able to do so in one of several initial meetings due to connection or “video transmission issues.” Although the intent to share the information had been there, the report found, the Cruise representatives subsequently failed to properly inform some regulators or officials of everything that occurred.

“The problem is that when the video froze, literally and figuratively, the Cruise employees froze in the moment, and nobody thought to speak up and fill in the detail,” a person close to the investigation told CNBC. 

Some employees also failed to update or correct company statements that omitted such information and attempted to deflect blame on the human hit-and-run driver who initially struck the pedestrian.

The report outlines multiple instances in which then-CEO and co-founder Kyle Vogt, who resigned in late November, made the final calls to withhold information, specifically regarding media.

Cruise co-founder Kyle Vogt shows off the push-button opening of the laterally opening doors on the new Cruise Origin, a fully autonomous passenger vehicle, in San Francisco, Jan. 21, 2020.

Carlos Avila Gonzalez | Hearst Newspapers | Getty Images

“This conduct has caused both regulators and the media to accuse Cruise of misleading them,” the report said. “The reasons for Cruise’s failings in this instance are numerous: poor leadership, mistakes in judgment, lack of coordination, an ‘us versus them’ mentality with regulators, and a fundamental misapprehension of Cruise’s obligations of accountability and…

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