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On Tuesday, a judge in California publicly criticized General Motors’ robotaxi service, Cruise, comparing it to the deceitful TV character Eddie Haskell. The criticism was due to the company’s actions after a serious collision that derailed its plans for growth.
During a one-hour hearing to discuss a proposed settlement in a case against Cruise for attempting to hide its involvement in an incident that led to the suspension of its California license, Administrative Law Judge Robert Mason III made a comparison to the deceitful character Haskell from the 1950s TV show “Leave It To Beaver.”
Following a collision involving a human-operated vehicle and a pedestrian in San Francisco at the beginning of October, a self-driving Cruise taxi called “Panini” pulled the individual approximately 20 feet (6 meters) while traveling at a speed of around seven miles per hour (11 kilometers per hour).
However, the California Public Utilities Commission had previously given Cruise permission to run a fleet of self-driving taxis in San Francisco at all hours. However, it was later discovered that Cruise had hidden Panini’s actions for over two weeks, potentially resulting in a penalty of $1.5 million, depending on the interpretation of regulations.
The management team recently put in place by General Motors at Cruise, after the October accident, admitted that they did not provide complete information to regulators about the actions of Panini towards the pedestrian that night. They also attempted to convince Mason that the company was not intentionally deceiving anyone.
Mason became so exasperated by Cruise’s mixed messaging during Tuesday’s hearing that he harked back to the TV series starring Jerry Mathers as the Beaver that still pops up in reruns. “For some reason, Eddie Haskell popped in my head,” Mason quipped to Craig Glidden, who now oversees Cruise as its president and chief administrative officer.
Glidden reassured Mason that Cruise would take responsibility for their actions, which he referred to as a regrettable “error.” Cruise initially offered to settle the case for $75,000, but when Mason argued that the company should pay at least $112,500, Glidden promptly agreed to that amount.
Glidden stated that they are looking to progress. He also reminded Mason that Cruise may still encounter additional consequences, not just in California, but also from the U.S. Justice Department and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as they investigate the actions of the robotaxi service.
However, Mason has expressed that he is more inclined to allow the case to proceed through the entire hearing process rather than agreeing to a settlement. The judge did not specify a timeline for reaching a resolution.
The hearing on Tuesday occurred within a span of two weeks after Cruise published a comprehensive report examining their mishandling of the pedestrian’s injury.
The report conducted by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan law firm criticized Cruise’s management, which has been replaced due to their inadequate leadership and promoting a divisive attitude towards regulators. However, the report also states that internet connection issues were responsible for regulators not being able to view parts of a video showing Panini dragging a pedestrian after the vehicle misinterpreted the situation.
In addition to separating from previous CEO and co-founder Kyle Vogt and other high-ranking employees, Cruise has also downsized its staff by 25% due to GM’s decision to step back from its initial aim of generating $1 billion in yearly revenue from the robotaxi service by 2025.