General Motors Co.’s (NYSE:GM) troubled autonomous vehicle subsidiary, Cruise, has appointed former Ford Motor Co. executive Steve Kenner as its new Chief Safety Officer in a bid to reinforce its commitment to safety and accountability.
What Happened: Cruise announced the appointment of Kenner in a LinkedIn post, stating, “Several months ago, we committed to building a better Cruise with enhanced focus on safety, transparency, and accountability. This included conducting a search to hire a new Chief Safety Officer and today we're pleased to announce we have appointed Steve Kenner to this role.” The post further emphasized the critical importance of safety in the autonomous vehicle (AV) industry, particularly in light of recent challenges.
In his new capacity, Kenner will be responsible for overseeing Cruise’s safety management systems and operations, reporting directly to company President Craig Glidden.
Kenner previously worked at Uber, Apple, Chrysler, and Ford. Prior to joining Cruise, he served as the Vice President of Safety at Kodiak Robotics. Notably, Kenner began his career as an engineer at General Motors in 1978, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Reflecting on his appointment, Kenner expressed his commitment to advancing the safety potential of autonomous vehicles in a post, stating, “AV companies and our regulators share the same goal: to improve road safety for all users. I believe in the safety potential of autonomous vehicles, and I want to safely and responsibly realize that potential.”
Why It Matters: Cruise has faced safety concerns following an accident involving one of its autonomous vehicles in San Francisco in early October, leading to the suspension of both autonomous and manual AV operations in the United States.
GM reported an operating loss of $3.48 billion at Cruise in 2023, compared to a loss of $3.24 billion in 2022. Despite these challenges, GM CEO Mary Barra emphasized the company’s commitment to Cruise, highlighting the sound foundational technology behind its self-driving capabilities.
Barra indicated during the full-year earnings call last month that while Cruise’s spending would be significantly reduced this year, investments would continue in developing self-driving software, specialized hardware, and other AI capabilities. When questioned about potential fundraising for Cruise’s relaunch, Barra stated, “As we get the detailed plan of how we're going to relaunch Cruise in the roadmap, then we'll evaluate the overall funding needs and will determine if it is internally or externally sourced.”
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