Karl Vogt, the founder and CEO of Cruise, the autonomous driving division of General Motors, has left the company as it struggles to recover after hitting and resting on top of a pedestrian at the end of October.
Overnight, in a post to the site formerly known as Twitter, Mr Vogt announced his resignation and said he would now “spend time with my family and explore some new ideas”.
The founder praised his former colleagues, stating, “The status quo on our roads sucks, but together we’ve proven there is something far better around the corner”.
According to Mr Vogt, Cruise has so far provided 250,000 rides across four US cities: San Francisco, Phoenix, Houston, and the inner suburbs of Austin.
Mr Vogt and Dan Kan founded Cruise in San Francisco in 2013. Three years later Cruise was bought by GM for an undisclosed sum, believed to be somewhere between US$500 million and US$1 billion ($760 million to $1.5 billion).
Starting in 2018 Honda has spent at least US$1 billion ($1.5 billion) building up a minority stake in Cruise.
In the October incident, a human-driven car struck a pedestrian, flinging her in front of the self-driving Chevrolet Bolt, which then hit her. The Bolt, piloted by Cruise’s autonomous driving hardware, detected the incident and came to a halt, put its hazards on, but in the process trapped the woman underneath the car.
The human driver of the other vehicle fled the scene. The pedestrian had to be pried out by the fire department with the jaws of life.
This accident, plus other incidents, including colliding with a fire truck, prompted the California Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend Cruise’s driverless vehicle permit.
After rolling out software updates, Cruise officially “paused” all its driverless operations at the beginning of November.
It’s unclear what the current pause and losing the CEO will mean for Cruise’s plans. At last month’s Japan Mobility Show, Cruise announced plans to begin driverless taxi operations in Tokyo from 2026.
According to GM’s financial statements, the General has lost about US$8.2 billion ($12.5 billion) on Cruise since 2017.