Many people will remember 2023 as a breakthrough year for the tech industry. Some people have even referred to the expansion of artificial intelligence (AI) services, like ChatGPT, for example, as an “Oppenheimer moment” for the nascent technology. If you're familiar with the hit movie about J. Robert Oppenheimer that came out this year or the award-winning biography American Prometheus that inspired it — you know that's not a good thing.
Before we go any further, we want to assure you that an actual person wrote this article — not AI (we're not Sports Illustrated).
Regarding AI and the proliferating issues accompanying it, General Motors' Cruise Origin is a notable example. Even though the Robotaxi company was pushing full speed ahead to get their autonomous vehicles on the road, those vehicles have caused so many problems that California's DMV recently revoked their permit to operate in San Francisco.
In light of the many setbacks (or emergency services vehicles that these autonomous cars interpret as roadblocks), Cruise has decided to delay their robotaxi operations indefinitely.
What's Wrong With Cruise?
The decision isn't surprising, considering Cruise's robotaxi woes have been piling up for months. Over the past year, numerous videos have spread across social media of police and firefighters having to smash robotaxi windows to move them out of the road when the autonomous cars froze after becoming confused about how to react to emergency services vehicles and first responders on the road.
One particularly nasty incident occurred in October when a Cruise robotaxi ran over a woman and dragged her along the road for 20 feet after a human driver hit her. According to California's DMV, Cruise executives distorted information about the incident.
About three weeks later, the DMV suspended the permits for Cruise's autonomous vehicles. About a month afterward, two of the company's founders, Daniel Kan and Kyle Vogt, resigned. When is a company's COO (Kan) and CEO (Vogt) stepping down like that not a red flag?
Other Companies Made Plans to Partner With Cruise
Cruise had previously announced plans for a joint venture with Honda to bring the Origin, a self-driving shuttle, to the bustling streets of central Tokyo in 2026. At the time of the announcement, Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe exclaimed that bringing an autonomous ride-hailing service to a complex “traffic environment” such as Central Tokyo would be a “great challenge.”
While they don't partner directly with Cruise, Tech developer Ghost Autonomy planned to use their AI, multi-modal large language models (MLLMs), to help Cruise's Level 4 autonomous driving systems solve their ongoing driving woes. John Hayes, Ghost Autonomy's CEO and founder, expressed optimism that marrying his company's MLLMs with Cruise's self-driving tech would result in a significant “breakthrough” for autonomous vehicles, even going so far as to refer to his MLLMs as the “holy grail” for autonomous driving systems.
Hayes reasoned that the introduction of MLLMs will allow “everyday consumer vehicles” to “reason about and navigate through the toughest scenarios” because “LLMs have already proven valuable” in “data labeling and simulation.”
Did we mention that in addition to continuously blocking emergency vehicles (and driving through active emergency scenes police had taped off), Cruises' robotaxis also struggle with recognizing verbal commands, less-than-perfect road markings, and hand signals from other drivers?
Whether or not the MLLMs Ghost Autonomy specializes in (which mainly students have used to churn out passable English papers or once reputable publications have used to create subpar content) will be able to use their “valuable” abilities in “data labeling and simulation” to effectively “interpret” real world traffic situations through an autonomous vehicle's video, lidar, radar, and audio feeds remains to be seen.
Cruise indefinitely delaying operations is not a sign of confidence that MLLMs would solve their autonomous driving problems soon. Why would they halt everything otherwise?
According to a report from Automotive News, Cruise recently sent a letter to employees revealing “sweeping changes” for the company's “future plans,” stating that they will focus on bringing their robotaxi service to just one city now instead of the initially planned 13. However, the letter omitted which city it would be or when they would resume operations.
This article has been updated to clarify that Ghost has no relationship or partnership with Cruise. John's comments were in reference to Ghost's autonomous driving software.