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GM Cruise robotaxi unit names former Ford, Apple exec as safety chief

The new GM logo is seen on the facade of the General Motors headquarters in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., March 16, 2021. (REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo)
By David Shepardson | REUTERS

General Motors’ Cruise said Monday it named a longtime auto and tech industry employee as head of safety for the robotaxi unit.

Cruise named Steve Kenner as its chief safety officer, who will oversee Cruise’s safety management systems and operations.

Kenner began has career at GM in 1978 and previously worked as global director of automotive safety at Ford, among other jobs. He was most recently vice president of safety at self-driving trucking company Kodiak and also worked at Apple, Uber, Locomation, Chrysler and Aurora.
Kenner’s appointment comes at a critical time for Cruise.

On Oct. 2, a pedestrian in San Francisco hit by another vehicle was thrown into the path of a self-driving Cruise vehicle and dragged 20 feet.

In the aftermath, California suspended the company’s driverless testing license, and Cruise pulled all its U.S. self-driving vehicles from testing. The unit’s CEO, Kyle Vogt, and co-founder Dan Kan resigned in November.

“Safety governance is a critical gating factor as we return to our mission and get Cruise cars back on the road safely,” said Cruise Co-President Mo Elshenawy.

Cruise commissioned a report from law firm Quinn Emanuel that said the company did not intend to mislead. A separate technical review by engineering firm Exponent found the Cruise vehicle suffered from mapping errors and incorrectly identified hitting the woman as a side impact collision, the report stated. Cruise has since updated its software.

In December, Cruise announced it was reducing its workforce by 24% and GM said last month it was cutting spending at Cruise by about $1 billion in 2024.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has separately opened an investigation into pedestrian risks at Cruise.

Last week, Cruise raised its offer to resolve an investigation by a California regulator over its delay in disclosing the details of the Oct. 2 pedestrian crash

Kenner said in a statement he looks forward to earning the trust of regulators. “We have the same goal as regulators: to make our roadways safer and establish public confidence in the AV industry.”

Editor’s Note: Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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