4 min read

Requesting Info from Cruise

Last week, I wrote about an event in San Francisco where a Cruise autonomous vehicle coming from the opposite direction halted in my lane while at an intersection. I chose to file a report with the DMV. In a response from the DMV, they mentioned that I could also reach out to Cruise directly at community@getcruise.com, which I did in the hopes of understanding more about the incident.

Subject: Questions about incident on 9/27 in SF

I was hoping to learn more about what happened with 6x Cruise vehicles on 9/27/23 @ 12:52 PM in SF at Brannan and 3rd street. 

I was taken aback at having to go around a vehicle of yours with license plate 25685S3 that had entered oncoming traffic (the lane I was in) and appeared to be trying to turn onto 3rd street in the wrong direction. The other 5 vehicles involved were:“Bolero”, 75065P3, 74122C3, 75146P3, 67632T3.

Video is available here: https://youtu.be/Lqop3RfcIF8?si=aaY1V6dDbSGIrUUQ

You can see numerous vehicles ended up going around the stopped cruise vehicles by entering the bike lane (while a cyclist was trying to pass through.) Also, cruise vehicles used the bike lane to pass Bolero.

This was disturbing to witness. I’d love to understand what happened and how this will be mitigated in the future.As I’ve mentioned to Kyle (cc’d) in the past I think a status page for incidents like these would increase transparency. Having to reach out to request an explanation doesn’t make me feel like you’re behaving like a responsible and proactive member of my neighborhood. I’m sharing this as a fan of your mission (fully expecting issues) but not a fan of the lack of transparency you’re currently offering. 

Thanks for considering following up with me.

37 minutes later I received a response from Cruise.

Thank you for reaching out to Cruise.

We've received your report and our team is already looking into it. 

While we may not be able to share details externally right now,  please know that we're committed to investigating the issue thoroughly. If we find anything out of the ordinary, we'll take the necessary steps to make things right.

If you have any other questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to reach out. We're always here to help!

Thank you for being an essential part of the Cruise community!

Later that evening I replied to the message from Cruise.

I appreciate you investigating this, and hope to learn not just what happened, but also how you plan to prevent it from happening again. As a SF resident who sees your cars pass by my Potrero Hill home daily, it's unsettling to have one of your vehicles stopped in my oncoming lane at an intersection. As a member of the community I hope you will be transparent and communicate openly with residents like me. I am sure you can understand why anything less makes it very hard to support your continued operations in my community. Thank you.

I immediately received an auto-reply from Cruise.

Subject: Your Case Has Been Reopened

Thank you for contacting Cruise Customer Support.

Your case, #00244808: "[EXT] Questions about incident on 9/27 in SF", has been reopened. A Customer Success Specialist will respond to you shortly.

It's been five days since my initial email to Cruise with no response, so I decided to send a follow-up today.

Since you’ve had some time to investigate this I was wondering if you could provide me with even just a high level description of what happened to cause one of your vehicles license plate 25685S3 to stop in oncoming traffic in the lane I was driving? This occurred on 9/27/23 @ 12:52 PM in SF at Brannan and 3rd street. Thanks for sharing anything you’re comfortable sharing with me.

I immediately received an auto reply from Cruise. It seems they had closed the ticket related to my prior outreach.

Thank you for contacting Cruise Customer Support.

Your case, #00244808: "[EXT] Questions about incident on 9/27 in SF", has been reopened. A Customer Success Specialist will respond to you shortly.

These experiences are disheartening and paint a bleak picture of a future filled with robotic cars, faceless corporations, and automated responses. If I encounter a risky situation with a Cruise autonomous vehicle, it seems my only avenue for action is a government agency. Cruise's practice of auto-closing my emails shows a complete lack of interest in communication or transparency. Given that CEO Kyle Vogt is cc'd on these correspondences, I assume he endorses this approach. While they're legally entitled to act this way, it neither fosters trust nor makes me supportive of their operations in my community.

Update: 4 hours after following up with Cruise they replied with information they could've provided sooner. It supports my observation that involving a government agency seems necessary to get detailed info from them.

We are only able to share video footage and other data in response to valid legal process, such as a properly served subpoena or warrant.

If you file a police report, please ask the detective to send a request including the exact date, time, and location of the incident.

For more information, law enforcement can contact Cruise at firstresponders@getcruise.com

I followed Cruise's advice and attempted to file a police report at the Mission Bay HQ. However, I learned that an officer needs to see the violation occur and was handed a copy of the SFPD Traffic Enforcement General Order 9.01. Plus, in SF, police can't cite autonomous vehicles. Thus, without damage, there's currently no way for me to file a police report. I was told I could consider taking this up with City Hall. Cruise has me in checkmate.

Photo of a page of the SFPD Traffic Enforcement General Order I was given