General Motors’ Cruise autonomous vehicle (AV) robotaxi unit has reportedly dismissed nine of its “key leaders” as it undergoes safety investigations following an accident in October, according to a report by CNBC.

According to an internal message obtained by the publication, the cuts include leaders from the company’s legal, government affairs and safety teams.

The obtained message claimed that “new leadership is necessary” for the AV company to operate “with the highest standards when it comes to safety, integrity, and accountability.”

Cruise is just one of the AV companies which are having trouble commercialising AVs. The difficulty of commercialising autonomous vehicles is outlined in GlobalData’sThematic Research: Autonomous Vehicles (2023) report. 

The leap taken from SAE Level 1 autonomy to Level 2 has proven to be minor compared with the jump in complexity needed for Level 3 ‘eyes-off’ autonomous vehicle operation, according to the report. 

Even Level 3 vehicles will appear simple in comparison with the higher levels and capabilities demanded by truly self-driving Level 4 and Level 5 models, according to the report. 

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The company cuts follow an incident in October when a Cruise robotaxi collided with a pedestrian after they were struck by another vehicle. 

The incident led Cruise to pause all of its AVs on roads in the US after the California Department of Motor Vehicles suspended the company’s deployment and testing. 

California regulators revoked the company’s license, claiming the AVs posed “an unreasonable risk to public safety.” 

Mary Barra, General Motors CEO, said the personnel decisions made today “are a necessary step for Cruise to move forward as it focuses on accountability, trust and transparency.”

The company’s actions include two ongoing external safety reviews that will guide the company’s path forward. They are expected to be completed in early 2024, she said.

In 2020, the company revealed the Cruise Origin self-driving shuttle concept. This has no human controls and is fully self-driving within a geofenced area which meets Level 4 AV standards.

Cruise has been hoping that the Origin would go into production in 2023 and be built at GM’s Detroit Hamtramck plant, but this is understood to be on hold pending a decision from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regarding an exemption from current safety regulations.

The news comes as the value of AV deals in the US have failed to reach the heights of 2021, according to GlobalData’s deal database.

In 2023YTD, as of 14 December, the value of AV deals totalled just over $10m in the US.

This is significantly lower than 2021, which saw the value of deals total $48.2m. This was an increase over the year prior, which saw the value of US deals total $26.6m.

The fall in value of US AV deals signals an end to the hype which grew throughout the 2010s, as AV companies battle a number of hurdles to get their vehicles on the road.

According to GlobalData'sThematic Research: Autonomous Vehicles (2023), the US, China, some European countries, and smaller countries that have taken a highly supportive stance to AVs will occupy leading positions in the future of AVs.

Our signals coverage is powered by GlobalData’s Thematic Engine, which tags millions of data items across six alternative datasets — patents, jobs, deals, company filings, social media mentions and news — to themes, sectors and companies. These signals enhance our predictive capabilities, helping us to identify the most disruptive threats across each of the sectors we cover and the companies best placed to succeed.