Cruise Named First Chief Safety Officer After Crash and Controversy | Tech Crunch

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Cruise has named its first “chief safety officer” as part of the company's effort to reinvent itself after an incident last year when one of its robotaxis pulled over a pedestrian — and the ensuing controversy.

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

Louise Zhang, VP of safety and systems at Cruise and one of the highest-ranking employees in safety prior to Kenner's arrival, will continue in her position.

Kenner's appointment came just three weeks after the law firm Quinn Emanuel released a 195-page report investigating an October crash where a cruise robotaxi previously hit and dragged a pedestrian who had collided with a human-driven car, also owned by the company. Response. That report ultimately concluded that Cruise's leadership had a “myopic” focus on the media response to the crash and omitted important facts when discussing the event with the public and regulators.

The crash and Cruise's handling of it are now the subject of several 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 begin his new role at the company at a time when the entire robotaxi fleet is grounded. Cruise recently cut its workforce by 24% and pushed out several top employees. Cruise co-founded and Kyle Vogt and co-founder Dan Kahn resigned last year.

General Motors, which owns Cruise, said it will reinvest $1 billion in the autonomous vehicle company this year. The automaker installed Glidden as chief administrative officer in November as the company began sorting out why it handled the October crash so poorly.

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