GM’s Cruise CEO resigns amid concerns over driverless car safety

The founder of General Motors-owned Cruise has stepped down less than a month after the driverless car company paused operations after an accident and the loss of permission to operate in California.

Kyle Vogt did not give a reason for his departure from the company that he started in 2013 before it was bought by the US automotive manufacturer General Motors in 2016.

San Francisco-based Cruise is seen as one of the most advanced autonomous driving companies in the world, and it had started charging passengers for journeys in some US cities. However, it paused all of its driverless cars on 26 October after California regulators revoked its licence to transport passengers without a driver after an accident on 2 October.

The company recalled nearly 1,000 vehicles to update their software after the incident.

Mary Barra, the General Motors chief executive, promoted Mo Elshenawy, who is executive vice-president of engineering at Cruise, to chief technology officer, after Vogt’s resignation, according to an internal email reported by TechCrunch.

In the email, Barra reportedly thanked Vogt for his “tremendous vision, passion and dedication over the past decade” and said the Cruise board “understands and respects his decision to resign as CEO”. The email also emphasised the importance of “public trust”. She wrote: “As we work to rebuild that trust, safety, transparency and accountability will be our north stars.”

Vogt, 38, is a serial entrepreneur who previously founded the video streaming service Twitch, which Amazon bought for nearly $1bn, and Socialcam, a video app. Vogt’s Twitch co-founder, Emmett Shear, was appointed as interim boss of artificial intelligence startup OpenAI after the dramatic ousting of its boss, Sam Altman.

Vogt said he would “spend time with my family and explore some new ideas”, in a series of post on X, formerly Twitter. He said: “The last 10 years have been amazing, and I’m grateful to everyone who helped Cruise along the way. The startup I launched in my garage has given over 250,000 driverless rides across several cities, with each ride inspiring people with a small taste of the future.

“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!”

He added: “The status quo on our roads sucks, but together we’ve proven there is something far better around the corner.”

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Today I resigned from my position as CEO of Cruise. (1/5)

— Kyle Vogt (@kvogt) November 20, 2023

The accident on 2 October proved that driverless technology still has some way to go before it is rolled out more widely. Another car knocked a pedestrian into the path of a Cruise car, which initially stopped before driving another 6 metres (20ft), dragging the pedestrian along and seriously injuring her.

The accident, and the consequent licence revocation, was a significant setback for Cruise and for the autonomous driving industry. Companies are racing to develop software capable of driving cars in busy cities while also convincing regulators and the public that it can be safer than human drivers.


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