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Embattled self-driving car company Cruise appoints new CEO

2 weeks ago 35

SAN FRANCISCO — General Motors-owned Cruise announced a new CEO on Tuesday, as the embattled autonomous car company works to restart its driverless taxi service after grounding its entire fleet in the wake of a grisly accident last year.

Marc Whitten, previously an executive at video game development platform Unity and a founder of Microsoft’s Xbox service division, will take over at a precarious time for Cruise. The company halted its entire driverless fleet across the United States last year after one of its autonomous cars operating in San Francisco hit and dragged a jaywalking pedestrian who was flung into its path by a human driver. California regulators suspended Cruise’s permits to operate its driverless fleet in the state, throwing the company into a crisis that included mass layoffs and the resignation of its former CEO, Kyle Vogt.

In a statement Tuesday, Whitten said that joining Cruise is “an opportunity of a lifetime” and predicted that the company would make rapid progress. “In a few years, transportation will be fundamentally safer and more accessible than it is today, creating much more value for individuals and communities around the world,” he said.

Whitten will oversee the return of Cruise’s driverless cars to public roads, which began last month in Phoenix with humans in the driving seat in case of problems. He must also try to restore the trust of regulators and the public in a company that was once seen as a leader in the self-driving car industry.

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After the Oct. 2 crash in San Francisco, which gravely injured a woman by dragging her about 20 feet underneath the vehicle, the California Department of Motor Vehicles said the company posed an “unreasonable risk” to public safety.

In an interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday, Cruise President and Chief Technology Officer Mo Elshenawy said the company is working to resume fully driverless operations in one U.S. city, like those that once ferried paying riders around San Francisco, but said the company “hasn’t decided” which one yet. Cruise said this month that it is testing its cars with safety drivers behind the wheel in Houston and Dallas, in addition to Phoenix.

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