Cruise appoints first safety chief after crash and controversy

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The cruise has appointed its first “safety manager” as part of the company’s efforts to rehabilitate following an incident – and subsequent controversy – last year that left a pedestrian stranded in underneath then dragged by one of its robot taxis.

Steve Kenner, an autonomous vehicle industry veteran who held senior safety roles at Kodiak, Locomation, Aurora and Uber’s now-defunct self-driving division, fills the newly created position. Kenner will report directly to Cruise President and Chief Administrative Officer Craig Glidden. He will “oversee Cruise’s security management systems and operations” and work “in direct partnership with Cruise’s Board of Directors,” the company said in a statement Monday.

Louise Zhang, Cruise’s vice president of security and systems and one of the highest-ranking security employees before Kenner’s arrival, will remain in her position.

Kenner’s appointment comes just three weeks after the release of a 195 page report by law firm Quinn Emanuel examining the October accident, in which a Cruise robotaxi struck and dragged a pedestrian who had previously been struck by a car driven by a human, as well as the company’s response. That report ultimately determined that Cruise executives had a “myopic” view of the media’s response to the accident and left out important facts when discussing the event with the public and regulators.

The accident and Cruise’s handling of it are now the subject of numerous government investigations. The Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the California Public Utilities Commission and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are all investigating the company’s actions.

Kenner will take up his new role at the company at a time when the entire robotaxis fleet is grounded. Cruise recently cut its workforce by 24% and ousted a number of high-level employees. Co-founder of Cruise and Kyle Vogt and co-founder Dan Kan resigned last year.

General Motors, owner of Cruise, said it would reduce investments in the billion-dollar autonomous vehicle company this year. The automaker named Glidden as chief administrative officer of November as he began to understand why the company had handled the October crash so poorly.

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