Cruise car in San Francisco streets

Cruise CEO explains robotaxi fleet’s human remote assistance system

Credit: Cruise

Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt recently responded to allegations that the company’s driverless robotaxis are not really autonomous since they require frequent help from humans who are aiding the vehicles in a remote operations center. In a post on Hacker News, Vogt argued that Cruise’s robotaxis are only being remotely assisted 2-4% of the time on average. 

“Cruise AVs are being remotely assisted (RA) 2-4% of the time on average, in complex urban environments. This is low enough already that there isn’t a huge cost benefit to optimizing much further, especially given how useful it is to have humans review things in certain situations,” Vogt wrote.

Vogt’s comments came on the heels of a report from the New York Times, which alleged that Cruise workers intervened to help the company’s driverless robotaxis every 2.5 to 5 miles. The Cruise CEO noted that the detail shared by the NYT referenced how frequently Cruise robotaxis initiated a remote assistance (RA) session, but many of these RA sessions are resolved very quickly. 

“The stat quoted by NYT is how frequently the AVs initiate an RA session. Of those, many are resolved by the AV itself before the human even looks at things, since we often have the AV initiate proactively and before it is certain it will need help. Many sessions are quick confirmation requests (it is ok to proceed?) that are resolved in seconds. There are some that take longer and involve guiding the AV through tricky situations. Again, in aggregate, this is 2-4% of time in driverless mode,” Vogt explained. 

The CEO’s comments were supported by a spokesperson from Cruise, who noted in an emailed statement that a remote assistance session is triggered roughly every 4 to 5 miles. This effectively corrected the NYT‘s report, which noted that Cruise’s RA sessions were triggered roughly every 2.5-5 miles. 

“Oftentimes, the AV proactively initiates these before it is certain it will need help, such as when the AV’s intended path is obstructed (e.g construction blockages or detours) or if it needs help identifying an object. Remote assistance is in session about 2-4% of the time the AV is on the road, which is minimal, and in those cases, the RA advisor is providing wayfinding intel to the AV, not controlling it remotely,” the Cruise spokesperson said. 

Cruise was once considered a leader in the autonomous robotaxi segment. However, following an incident that resulted in a pedestrian — who was previously hit by a human-driven car — getting run over and dragged on the road by a robotaxi, the California DMV suspended the company’s driverless permit. Cruise would later pause its robotaxi operations across its entire fleet. 

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Cruise CEO explains robotaxi fleet’s human remote assistance system
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