General Motors' autonomous ridesharing operation Cruise hasn’t exactly had a great few weeks. The division has been under fire from the public and regulators in recent weeks, even having its permit to offer driverless for-pay rides suspended by the state of California due to overwhelming safety concerns.

Now, in another blow to the money-bleeding robotaxi company, Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt reportedly confirmed to workers that the parent company is hitting pause on production of the electric Cruise Origin people mover. 

20231107 - Cruise Origin

According to Forbes, which obtained audio of the meeting, Vogt confirmed the production pause to staff during an all-hands meeting. That discussion was meant to address how the company would handle the California Department of Motor Vehicles decision to suspend evoke Cruise’s driverless operating permit.

The suspension occurred last month after a woman was critically injured by a human-driven car and then thrown in front of a Cruise-branded driverless Chevrolet Bolt EV which ran her over. State regulators allege that Cruise “misrepresented”  the safety technology of its driverless cars, and have expressed particular concerned about pedestrian safety. Shortly thereafter, Cruise announced that it would halt all driverless operations across the country.

“[B]ecause a lot of this is in flux, we did make the decision with GM to pause production of the Origin,” Vogt said.

The Cruise Origin – for those who don’t know – is a purpose-built, fully-electric Mobility as a Service vehicle developed jointly by Cruise, its parent company General Motors, and Honda. Its original plans called for a completely driverless cabin with vast amounts of space for passengers. Most Cruise vehicles serving up robotaxi rides on the road, however, are Chevy Bolt EVs; those were until recently operating in cities like San Francisco, Austin and Miami. Cruise planned to eventually utilize the Origin for both ride-hailing and deliveries under the company’s platform.

Up until its official pause, the Origin was produced at GM’s Factory Zero factory in Hamtramck, Michigan alongside the same lines that build the electric Cadillac Escalade IQ, Chevrolet Silverado EV, and GMC Hummer EV. It’s not clear if the halt in production will affect workers at the plant in any meaningful way.

In the recording, Vogt later clarified that GM had already built “hundreds” of examples of the Origin already, which is “more than enough for the near-term when we are ready to ramp things back up.”

A GM spokesperson confirmed this news to InsideEVs. "We are finishing production on a small number of pre-commercial vehicles and after that, plan to temporarily pause production," the official said. "More broadly speaking, we believe autonomous vehicles will transform the way people move around the world, and the Origin is an important part of the AV journey – it's the first scalable vehicle ever designed specifically for autonomous rides and will make transportation more accessible."

Cruise Origin in SF's Castro District

Yet Cruise has a pretty big fight ahead of it. The company has been bleeding money throughout its history, and that hasn’t changed in 2023. Since January, GM has reported a $1.9 billion loss from Cruise – $732 million in losses in the third quarter alone. Now, with the inability (however temporary) to offer driverless rides and a whopping 1.5 company-wide workers per robotaxi, the company will undoubtedly need to dig deeper into cash reserves to stay afloat.

GM CEO Mary Barra has said that the automaker still believes that Cruise has “tremendous opportunity to grow and expand,” and it seems unlikely that the company wants to withdraw its commitment to AVs or the Origin itself. But if Cruise can get back on the road, it has a lot to prove. 

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