The End of the Future? An Investor Conference on GM’s Vision for Zero Traffic, Zero Emissions and Zero Collision (Vogt) Revisited
General GM presented a vision for the future that involved zero crashes, zero traffic, and zero emissions. Today, that future seems further away than ever.
Vogt was happy to be the face of this grander vision. He used a young girl’s death at an intersection in San Francisco to bolster his argument that self- driving cars would lead to a drop in traffic deaths. Cruise even bought a full-page ad in The New York Times declaring “human drivers are terrible” and holding up its driverless cars as the only solution. At an investor conference, Vogt confidently took the stage and said that the steering wheel- and pedal-less Origin shuttles were just days away from federal approval.
The company subsequently stopped operations and hired a new safety officer, it recalled all its vehicles, and it retained an outside group to perform an audit.
And the resignations may not be over; Dan Kan, a co-founder of Cruise and the company’s chief product officer, is also stepping down, according to a source with knowledge of the events. A spokesperson for the company confirmed the departure.
The Cruise Case for the Future: Self-Driving Autonomy, Safety and Transparency During the 2022-2019 Car Launch Crisis
Most automakers have already dialed back their autonomous ambitions. The company ceased operations last year when Ford and Volkswagen pulled their funding. Toyota’s vision for a futuristic city teeming with self-driving cars has been significantly delayed. In 2022, AV investments went down nearly 60 percent year over year as startups struggled through layoffs or outright closures.
Cruise’s struggles are unique to GM. Other car companies are trying to distance themselves from the self-driving car startup. GM has been bullish and insists that billions of dollars it is sinking into technology will result in a safer future and a large payouts for the company.
Rather than sit back and let driverless cars come to them eventually, Barra insisted on GM staying in the driver’s seat. And now it has to deal with the fallout when that company’s “move fast and break things” culture has resulted in a crisis.
Taking more of a direct hand in Cruise’s operation initially is something we want to do. Mo Elshenaowy will become the chief technology officer, but Craig Glidden will serve as Cruise’s co-president. Former Tesla president Jon McNeill, who’s been a board member at GM for several years, was named vice chairman of the Cruise board alongside Barra.
There are more options to choose from. Brightdrop was spun out of GM nearly two years ago. Is it possible for GM to do the same thing as Cruise, putting it directly into the fold to make sure corners are not cut and safety remains paramount?
It’s unclear, but GM has already tightened the reins by signaling that layoffs would be coming. Cruise has laid off contract workers who work in fleet operations. But now it seems like Cruise employees are at risk of losing their jobs as well.
The results of the ongoing reviews will inform the company’s next steps, as they try to build a better cruise centered around safety, transparency and trust. “We will continue to advance AV technology in service of our mission to make transportation safer, cleaner and more accessible.”
Late last year, U.S. safety regulators said they were investigating reports that autonomous robotaxis run by Cruise can stop too quickly or unexpectedly quit moving, potentially stranding passengers.
Cruise was able to charge for rides in San Francisco at night while testing 300 robotaxis in the day, but only in less congested areas. Vogt earlier said most collisions were caused by inattentive or impaired human drivers, not the AVs.
A Conversation with Jonathan Vogt in the X Streaming Newsroom at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MITI/Transport)
A co-founding member of Twitch, Vogt attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Amazon acquired the streaming service for a good price of $1 billion.
“The status quo on our roads sucks, but together we’ve proven there is something far better around the corner,” Vogt wrote in a message to Cruise workers posted on X. He did not refer to the company’s recent troubles.