Cruise is pausing production of its purpose-built robotaxi, the Origin — the autonomous vehicle company’s latest setback amid suspended operations and increased scrutiny from regulators.
Forbes first reported the news, citing audio of Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt’s address at an all hands meeting Monday. TechCrunch has confirmed the news with sources who spoke to us on the condition of anonymity.
The decision to pause production on the Origin, which was first unveiled in January 2020, comes after California regulators suspended Cruise’s operations in the state after they learned that a pedestrian was dragged by a Cruise vehicle after being struck by a human-driven car.
Cruise voluntarily paused all of its driverless operations in its other markets, including Phoenix, Austin, Houston and, more recently, Miami, in order to “rebuild public trust.”
People who listened in to the all-hands meeting expressed some frustration, noting Vogt gave non-answers (or was vague) to questions about how the company planned to restore public and employee trust and why it didn’t pause the fleet sooner.
According to the Forbes report, Vogt addressed Cruise’s decision to halt driverless operations, telling staff that “because a lot of this is in flux, we did make the decision with GM to pause production on the Origin.”
Vogt didn’t appear to mention layoffs in his all-hands meeting. However, during a meeting the week before, Vogt noted to staff that layoffs could be coming amid suspended operations, according to the New York Times. With the news of the pause in Origin, it’s possible future layoffs could affect both staff who work in operations and are now, essentially, grounded, and those who are working on Origin development.
In September, Vogt claimed that Cruise was “just days away” from receiving the necessary approval to mass produce the Origin. That approval still has not come, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not shared more details on the matter.
Cruise’s boxy-looking vehicle built with no steering wheel or pedals — which is being jointly developed by GM, Cruise and Honda — is a core part of the company’s strategy to scale “exponentially” in cities across the U.S., and even the world. Cruise began testing its Origins on public roads in Austin earlier this year, and has made plans to launch an Origin-based robotaxi service in Dubai and Japan.
Sources told TechCrunch that Cruise is in possession of hundreds of Origin vehicles. Vogt, according to Forbes, said that fleet will be “more than enough for the near-term when we are ready to ramp things back up.”
Cruise did not immediately respond to a request for comment.