GM's autonomous ride-sharing unit, Cruise, hasn't had a good time. The division has been the target of criticism from the public and regulators in recent weeks, even having its license to offer paid driverless trips suspended by the state of California due to major safety concerns.
Now, in yet another blow to the money-bleeding robo-taxi company, Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt has confirmed to employees that the parent company is halting production of the Cruise Origin electric vehicle.
According to Forbes, which obtained audio of the meeting, Vogt confirmed the pause in production to the team during an all-staff meeting. The discussion was intended to address how the company would handle the California Department of Motor Vehicles' decision to suspend Cruise's driverless operating license.
The suspension came last month after a woman was seriously injured by a human-driven car and then thrown in front of a Cruise driverless Chevrolet Bolt EV, which ran her over. State regulators allege that Cruise "misrepresented" the safety technology in its driverless cars and expressed particular concern about pedestrian safety. Shortly thereafter, Cruise announced that it would cease all driverless operations nationwide.
"As much of this is in flux, we made the decision with GM to pause Origin production," Vogt said.
The Cruise Origin - for those who don't know - is an all-electric Mobility as a Service vehicle, developed jointly by Cruise, its parent company General Motors and Honda. Their original plans called for a completely driverless cabin with plenty of room for passengers. However, the majority of Cruise vehicles that offer robot taxi rides on the streets are Chevrolet Bolts; until recently, they were operating in cities like San Francisco, Austin, and Miami. Cruise planned to eventually use Origin for transportation and deliveries under the company's platform.
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Until its official pause, the Origin was produced at GM's Factory Zero plant in Hamtramck, Michigan, along with the same lines that built the electric Cadillac Escalade IQ, Chevrolet Silverado EV, and GMC Hummer EV. It is unclear whether the production halt will significantly affect factory workers.
In the recording, Vogt later clarified that GM had already produced "hundreds" of Origin examples, which is "more than enough for the short term when we are ready to ramp up production."
A GM spokesperson confirmed this news to InsideEVs. "We are finishing production of a small number of pre-commercial vehicles and after that, we plan to temporarily pause production," the official said. “More broadly, we believe autonomous vehicles will transform the way people move around the world, and Origin is an important part of the AV journey – it is the first scalable vehicle designed specifically for autonomous travel and will make transportation more accessible. "
However, Cruise has a big fight ahead of it. The company has been losing money throughout its history, and that hasn't changed in 2023. Since January, GM has reported a $1.9 billion loss from Cruise — $732 million in losses in the third quarter alone. Now, with the inability to offer driverless travel and a staggering 1.5 workers across the company per robot taxi, the company will undoubtedly need to dig deeper into its cash reserves to stay afloat.
GM CEO Mary Barra said the automaker still believes Cruise has "a tremendous opportunity to grow and expand," and it seems unlikely the company would want to withdraw its commitment to autonomous vehicles or Origin itself. But if Cruise can get back on the road, it has a lot to prove.