GM’s Driverless-Car Unit Recalls Software Used in Some Robotaxis


General Motors Co.

GM -0.89%

’s driverless-car unit has issued a recall related to the software in some of its robotaxis, after a crash earlier this year resulted in minor injuries.

Cruise LLC, in a notice published Thursday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said the recall campaign covers 80 vehicles with older software that allows them to be operated without a driver at the wheel. When those vehicles made an unprotected left turn, in some circumstances, that software might not have correctly predicted the direction of oncoming vehicles, the filing said.

The software being recalled was used in 80 company-owned cars operated by Cruise in a robotaxi service in San Francisco and that weren’t made available for sale, the company said. Cruise issued a public recall at NHTSA’s suggestion, the filing said.

“We submitted this voluntary filing in the interest of transparency to the public; it pertains to a prior version of software and does not impact or change our current on-road operations,” Cruise said.

After years of testing its self-driving-car technology, GM’s Cruise in June launched a commercial robotaxi service in San Francisco. The company is allowed to operate Cruise vehicles in the city’s downtown at night without a safety driver present at speeds of as much as 30 miles an hour.

GM has said the deployment of a driverless-taxi service through Cruise will be a crucial growth driver in coming years. The company has said Cruise could reap $50 billion in revenue by the end of the decade, and Chief Executive

Mary Barra

told investors in July that it will give priority to investments into self-driving cars and electric vehicles.

Regulators have been paying closer attention as of late to driverless cars being tested on public roads. NHTSA in June released data on crashes involving highly automated systems, such as those operated by Cruise and

Alphabet Inc.’s

Waymo LLC. Those vehicles are equipped with technology that fully automates driving in certain circumstances.

Cruise’s recall follows a June 3 crash involving one of its driverless cars that was struck by an oncoming vehicle in a San Francisco intersection, according to the filing published this week.

As the driverless car began turning left, its software predicted that the other vehicle, which was traveling in the right-turn lane, would veer directly into the Cruise vehicle’s path, the filing said. In response, the Cruise car decided to brake. The oncoming driver then moved out of the turn lane and proceeded into the intersection, colliding with the rear of the Cruise vehicle, the filing said. Local police said the other driver was mostly at fault for the collision.

After the incident, Cruise said it disabled unprotected left turns in its fleet until it updated the vehicles’ software July 6. Before then, Cruise said only one such incident occurred in more than 123,500 driverless unprotected left turns made before the software update.

Cruise said the company’s software update improved its ability to predict the actions of other drivers on the road. The company said the software is now better equipped to prevent this type of incident, and it has determined the software would have selected a different path to avoid the collision.

The action is the latest step taken by NHTSA to beef up its oversight of autonomous cars, and it shows how the regulator could address potential safety issues in driverless vehicles going forward. The recall campaign follows a recall earlier this year by, an autonomous-vehicle startup backed by

Toyota Motor Corp.

, over a problem with its driverless software that could cause vehicles to suddenly shut down.

Cruise’s commercial robotaxi service has drawn the attention of regulators in California, as well. In July, the state’s regulator responsible for issuing driverless-car permits said it was looking into concerns raised in an anonymous letter that Cruise was preparing to launch its driverless-car operation prematurely.

The letter detailed incidents where Cruise vehicles had stalled at intersections, blocking lanes of traffic, and said that employees had concerns internally about the readiness of the company’s technology for commercial deployment. A spokeswoman for the regulator didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday on the matter.

Write to Ryan Felton at [email protected]

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