Cruise CEO blasts SF’s response to driverless cars in interview

FILE: Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt speaks onstage during the 2023 SXSW Conference and Festival on March 14, 2023, in Austin, Texas.

Stephen Olker/Getty Images for SXSW

In a newly published interview, Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt speaks up for the robots.

The executive downplayed his cars’ problems, criticized human drivers and took issue with the local backlash in an interview with the Washington Post published Thursday. Vogt told the outlet that the public’s scrutiny of autonomous vehicles is a “double standard” and touted his firm’s go-to statistic: millions of miles driven without causing a serious injury.


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“Anything that we do differently than humans is being sensationalized,” Vogt said.

“If I videotaped every single intersection, you see people blowing red lights rolling through stop signs and speeding,” he added. “We’re surrounded by these hazards.” 

The Post wrote that Vogt is “bullish” on a future where driverless cars are the default mode of transportation in the city, which he said would lead to safer roads. Still, he added, “Perfection, when it comes to driving, does not exist.” 

The interview comes a week after national news outlets, beginning with Forbes, began writing about a mid-August crash in which a driver hit a pedestrian with their car and the pedestrian died of their injuries in a hospital, according to the San Francisco Fire Department. An emergency responder, in an SFFD report about the scene, wrote that two Cruise vehicles slowed the ambulance’s exit to the hospital and that the delay contributed to the pedestrian’s death. Cruise disagreed, telling SFGATE on Sept. 1 that its car on the scene hadn’t blocked traffic and that there was “a clear path to pass the AV.”


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Much of the public backlash about driverless cars in San Francisco has focused on reports like these. In January, firefighters had to smash the window of an autonomous vehicle to stop it from rolling through a dangerous scene, SFGATE reported. In August, the Department of Motor Vehicles made Cruise cut its San Francisco fleet in half after a fire engine, with sirens and lights on, crashed into one of the company’s cars with a rider inside; the AV apparently did not yield to the emergency signals.

Vogt told the Post that the public discourse is generally “healthy,” but he took issue with the public backlash to moments like when Cruise cars stalled after the city’s Outside Lands festival. “We’re talking about a 15-minute traffic delay for something that, on the other hand, is providing a massive and quite measurable public benefit to the community,” he said, per the Post.

Cruise, which is owned by General Motors, is working on highway driving and updates its vehicles’ software every two to four weeks, Vogt said. The company has its share of fans and riders in the city, but in August, many residents harangued the firm before a state committee vote to authorize expanded autonomous taxi services. Speakers worried that drivers and truckers would lose their jobs, that the cars weren’t safe, and that the expansion of driverless fleets would make streets busier, SFGATE reported.

After the vote went Cruise and Waymo’s way, San Francisco officials filed motions to stop the robotaxi rollout and accused the state commission — which includes a former Cruise lawyer — of abusing its decision-making power.


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Vogt’s interview, calling critics’ responses overblown, marks a new stage in Cruise’s public relations campaign. The car company is seeking to turn its years of autonomous driving research into a popular and profitable ride-hailing product, all while competing with the well-established Uber and Lyft, both of which share rider fares with drivers. At the start of August, Cruise even bought a patch on Giants players’ sleeves to become the team’s first jersey sponsor, adding to its marketing efforts.

Hear of anything happening at Cruise or another tech company? Contact tech reporter Stephen Council securely at [email protected] or on Signal at 628-204-5452.


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