AUSTIN (KXAN) – The largest operator of autonomous vehicles (AVs) in Austin announced via social media that it would be suspending all operations to “rebuild public trust.”
Cruise’s fleet makes up roughly 80% of the AVs roaming across Austin’s streets. Austinites will likely observe fewer of these vehicles with the Cruise pause, but there are still three other AV operators in the city, according to a city backup presentation.
The presence of these vehicles is still very new – Cruise only started operating the vehicles in Austin in 2022. In order to reckon with this new frontier, the city formed a working group in July to prepare for incidents, collect better data and facilitate better communication with AV companies to create remedies to issues, according to the city.
The city has already begun collecting data on issues with AVs from residents, fire departments, the Austin Police Department, the Austin Transportation and Public Works Department, and Emergency Medical Services.
See a breakdown of the types of AV issues and where in Austin entities reported them below.
“[It’s] kind of amazing to see cars that have been on the road for many months now, [and] there’s still this many situations where people have had to call and report issues,” said Paige Ellis, Austin Mayor Pro Tem.
“I’m glad that [Cruise] is taking a step back and really trying to address some of the issues that we’ve seen with their cars,” she continued.
Other Austin City Council Members — Vanessa Fuentes, Mackenzie Kelly and Zohaib “Zo” Qadri — also welcomed Cruise’s announcement.
“I’ve said from the beginning that I don’t think this technology is ready for prime time,” Qadri said at the Mobility Committee meeting Friday.
The City Council doesn’t have much power on this issue, though. State law prohibits local governments from regulating or permitting AVs, per city documents.
“We are here in a supportive role. We’re trying to make sure that our public departments have the ability to work alongside these vehicles,” Ellis said. Until that is sorted out, I’m glad to hear that [Cruise] is pausing, taking a step back and recalibrating how they can better build public trust and how we can be better partners in our public spaces.”