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Cruise cuts by GM stir doubts in drive to autonomous vehicles

General Motors is dramatically scaling back spending and ambitions for self-driving unit Cruise after a series of alarming incidents eroded confidence in and oversight of its robotaxis. Just months after gaining final operational permits, Cruise now faces suspended licenses, layoffs and a uncertain path to redemption.

CFO Paul Jacobson announced plans to cut Cruise investment by "hundreds of millions" in 2024 amidst independent safety probes. GM chair Mary Barra admitted the business requires renewed "focus on safety, transparency and accountability" to rebuild regulatory and public trust.

The withdrawal follows Cruise robotaxis being involved in crashes, impeding first-responders, getting stuck in wet cement and struggling to detect pedestrians. But scrutiny hit fever pitch after video showed a Cruise AV dragging an injured woman it had hit for 20 feet in October.

The California DMV accused Cruise of withholding damning footage and misrepresenting autonomous capabilities. The unit's temporary ban came soon after, stalling progress as competitors like Waymo eclipse 700,000 annual riderless trips.

Cruise leadership also took a major hit, with CEO Kyle Vogt stepping down over incidents mishandled on his watch. Barra committed to eventually relaunching scaled-down robotaxi operations in a single city only.

Analysts suggest Cruise now faces precariously low cash reserves after burning billions in GM's pursuit of AV preeminence. With advocates questioning if self-driving cars can truly handle complex cities, the company must regain trust at all levels through transparency.

Barra previously floated Cruise reaching $50 billion in annual revenue this decade - now longshots without extensive proof safety shortfalls and perceptions won't remain persistent obstacles. Resetting public expectations while clearly demonstrating improved oversight will define if Cruise crashes or rebounds.

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