Kyle Vogt is out as CEO of Cruise, GM’s robocab subsidiary. The move comes barely two months after a near fatal crash that many blame on a culture that downplays risk. Vogt took responsibility for the company’s current mess before tendering his resignation. Headlight.News looks at Cruise’s troubles and where it goes next.
Kyle Vogt is out as CEO of General Motors’ autonomous vehicle unit Cruise LLC.
His weekend resignation comes less than two months after one of the startup’s driverless vehicles struck and nearly killed a pedestrian in San Francisco, leading state regulators to pull Cruise’s operating permit. Shortly before resigning, Vogt sent an e-mail out to employees saying he took “responsibility for the situation Cruise is in today.”
“Today I resigned from my position as CEO of Cruise,” the 38-year-old executive said in a tweet on X, the former Twitter. In a series of five tweets, Vogt didn’t directly address the crash that ultimately led to his departure but insisted the company “has a great future ahead.”
Cruise caught misleading regulators
That future became a lot cloudier, at least in the eyes of many observers, in the wake of what happened in San Francisco on Oct. 2. A pedestrian initially was struck by a hit-and-run driver and tossed in front of one of Cruise’s robocabs.
Initially, a spokesperson claimed that the driverless vehicle immediately stopped, backing that up with a video taking by the Cruise vehicle. But, just weeks later, an unedited version of the video revealed that, after initially halting, the robocab started up again, dragging the seriously injured pedestrian with it as it maneuvered to the curb.
The revelation led California regulators to revoke Cruise’s recently won permit to operate its robocab fleet as a fully commercial venture. The company subsequently announced it was temporarily halting all operations on public roads.
Cruise was testing its vehicles in about 10 cities around the U.S., according to Sam Abuelsamid, senior auto analyst with Guidehouse Insights.
CEO job split up
“I think it’s going to be months before we see Cruise vehicles operating on public roads again, and it could be years before they’re operating in all those cities” where they were being used before the crash, said Abuelsamid.
The analyst said he was “not surprised” by Vogt’s departure in the wake of the crash, blaming the CEO for instilling a culture that downplayed the risk its technology posed. He believes GM encouraged Vogt to resign in favor of having “adults in the room.”
Cruise will now be jointly run by Mo Elshenawy, its executive vice president of engineering, and Craig Glidden, GM’s executive vice president of legal and policy. They will share the title of president and split CEO duties.
A garage start-up
As Vogt noted in one of his tweets, Cruise was a classic Silicon Valley startup, founded in his garage. It has subsequently hosted more than 250,000 rides, some using semi-autonomous vehicles with human backup drivers onboard. But it has been shifting to heavily modified versions of GM’s Chevrolet Cruise EV operating entirely without a driver onboard. The next step was to come with the launch of a toaster-shaped EV, the Origin, which didn’t even have traditional controls, such as a steering wheel or pedals.
“Cruise is still just getting started, and I believe it has a great future ahead. The folks at Cruise are brilliant, driven, and resilient. They’re executing on a solid, multi-year roadmap and an exciting product vision. I’m thrilled to see what Cruise has in store next!” Vogt said in one of his tweets.
Vogt’s mea culpa
But Vogt took a more apologetic tone in the e-mail he sent out to Cruise employees shortly before tendering his resignation.
“As CEO, I take responsibility for the situation Cruise is in today,” he wrote. “There are no excuses, and there is no sugar coating what has happened. We need to double down on safety, transparency, and community engagement.”
In his final note to employees, Vogt said Cruise will now make a tender offer allowing its employees to sell the shares they hold in the company.