Cruise's Handling of the October Incident - A Lesson for General Counsel & Compliance Counsel

Cruise's Handling of the October Incident - A Lesson for General Counsel & Compliance Counsel

Cecilia Ziniti

Jan 30, 2024

GCs, compliance, and AI folks - sharing a painful but riveting read. In October 2023, a Cruise autonomous vehicle did not sense a struck pedestrian and continued to drive about 20 feet. Cruise’s board brought in big law firm Quinn Emanuel to investigate. Below is their 195-page report.

One preface: a tragedy happened. The Cruise team was undoubtedly under extreme pressure. In my experience with crises, it’s very hard to determine what happened in the moment and communicate clearly as you learn. It's _many times_ easier to write memos afterward, especially at $2000/hour.

Still, the report gave me pause:

⏸️ A war room Slack Channel had 75 employees, but not one of them watched the full video footage of the incident for hours after it was available

⏸️ A paralegal filed required regulatory filings not having been in debriefs about what happened. As a result, the filing got certain details wrong.

⏸️ Zoom/AV glitches impeded Cruise staff from showing regulators the full video.

⏸️ Quinn makes deeper conclusions that “there was no captain of the ship” during the incident aftermath and that the “tone at the top” was not of regulatory cooperation. Since then, the Chief Legal Officer and other legal and safety team members have been terminated, and former CEO Kyle Vogt has also departed.

PS - I worked on the Cruise legal team in 2018 and 2019, but I have zero insider info on this. In my experience, though, Cruise employees and the Cruise teamwork are outstanding, technically and otherwise. And the promise of AVs was and is immense. Public data makes clear that AVs are safer than human drivers by a large margin.

PPS - Cruise friends if you read this, my sense and hope is that from the reset, you'll get more support. Everyone in SF and society at large will benefit when you can safely get the cars back on the road. 🙏

Link to Full Report