A Cruise Autonomous Vehicle Got Into A Strange Crash Last Month That Resulted In Injuries

Morning Dump Cruise autonomous vehicle crash

A Cruise autonomous vehicle has a bit of a crash, Volkswagen unveils a new Amarok pickup truck, the Lexus LX sells out in Japan. All this and more on today’s issue of The Morning Dump.

Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.

A Cruise Self-Driving Car Gets Involved In A Crash

Cruise autonomous vehicle
Photo credit: Cruise

A question that weighs on my mind constantly is “What if self-driving cars are largely bullshit?” I mean come on, autonomous cars don’t help commuters escape traffic, that’s what public transit is for. Moreover, I’m not entirely sure the cost-benefit analysis works out in favor of autonomous cars when compared to an average driver. Both humans and autonomous systems are fallible, and the latest reported incident involving a Cruise autonomous vehicle is a great reminder of that.

Automotive News reports that on June 3, a Cruise autonomous vehicle got into a crash in San Francisco when it turned left in front of an oncoming Toyota Prius and stopped in the intersection. Parties in both vehicles were allegedly treated for minor injuries, likely a testament to modern cars’ safety structures. Cruise claims that the Prius was speeding and proceeding straight from a right turn lane, but those claims haven’t been verified by a third party. More importantly, I’m not sure if those claims are relevant considering you’re not supposed to stop in an intersection mid-turn. As autonomous vehicle expert and Carnegie Mellon University professor Phil Koopman said to Automotive News, “Many people have a word for a driver who cuts in front of them and then stops in the road, and it’s not a polite or charitable word.”

Indeed, clearing an intersection is a basic driving task. If you can’t clear the intersection for any reason, pedestrians, stopped traffic, the sudden appearance of wildlife, don’t turn. It’ll be interesting to watch this story develop. Autonomous vehicle incidents resulting in human injury are usually fairly serious and warrant a good second look. If nothing else, this incident reminds us that widespread Level 5 autonomy is at a minimum, still quite a ways off.

Volkswagen Unveils A New Amarok

New Volkswagen Amarok
Photo credit: Volkswagen

For years, American enthusiasts of reasonably-sized trucks have coveted the Volkswagen Amarok. A nifty blend of sensible footprint and German build quality, it found reasonable success overseas with hundreds of thousands of Amaroks making their way into driveways and onto job sites. Now, a full twelve years after the first Amarok was launched, there’s a new one, and it’s based on the Ford Ranger. Calm down, there’s no need to sharpen your pitchforks. This isn’t just a simple exercise in badge engineering. Volkswagen has carefully altered the Ranger inside and out to create their own sort of pickup truck. You know what? It works. The front fascia is properly sharp, the rear stampings are unique, and the whole thing looks distinctly VW. Job well done on the exterior styling.

New Volkswagen Amarok
Photo credit: Volkswagen

On the inside, the new Amarok is more chiseled, more visually-refined than the new global Ranger. I particularly fancy the switchgear on the center console, a row of toggles interrupted by a proud volume knob. Brilliant stuff. Sure, there are still whiffs of Ford in the headlight switch and mirror controls, but they’re insignificant enough to make the Amarok look like a distinct product.

Under the hood, a raft of diesel engines and one gasoline powerplant are available, the latter a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder shared with the Ranger. Part-time and full-time four-wheel-drive are both available depending on market, while maximum capacity is reasonably impressive. We’re talking 7,716 pounds of towing capacity and 2,557 pounds of payload capacity on the most powerful V6 diesel model. While the new Amarok still has no plans of making it to America, it’s nice to know that Ford’s involvement doesn’t appear to have significantly watered-down Volkswagen’s midsize pickup truck.

Good Luck Getting A Lexus LX Or NX In Japan

Lx Ultra Luxury 1
Photo credit: Lexus

In this weird age of supply chain shortages, what’s considered an unreasonably long wait for a new vehicle? Eight months? One year? Try four whole years. That’s how long Japanese customers are expected to wait for a new Lexus LX SUV. In addition, the plug-in hybrid version of the Lexus NX compact crossover has a wait time in Japan of around a year, prompting Lexus to take action. Automotive News reports that Lexus has closed Japanese-market order banks for both vehicles due to sheer wait times.

Thankfully, American Lexus customers don’t quite face the same problem. See, America gets a level of production priority for the LX, so U.S. consumers won’t be waiting a whopping four years from order to delivery. While wait times for the LX SUV and plug-in hybrid variant of the NX compact crossover aren’t exactly trivial, order banks still appear to be open. I’ll admit, it’s really strange seeing a vehicle effectively sell out in its home market, but we are living in some very weird times.

NHTSA Administrator Targets Speeding

Interstate 10
Photo credit: squeaks2569 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

It was inevitable, really. Reuters reports that NHTSA Administrator Steven Cliff has his sights set on speeding. While announcing a new anti-speeding campaign, Cliff told reporters he wants speeding to be “as undesirable and seen as negatively as other bad” driving habits. While I agree that NHTSA regulators have done great work in areas of passive safety and theft resistance, some decisions like the footprint-based CAFE model that largely killed small cars, inaction on amber turn signal proposals, and stubborn refusal to harmonize with EU standards are really quite dreadful. This social attack on speeding seems to fall in the latter camp.

Look, stigmatizing human behavior rarely works. Drugs are winning the war on drugs, and likely will continue winning for a long, long time. You want to actually help people and make privileges like driving safer? Understand their needs and habits, then deploy the great art of compromise to achieve a desired outcome. Speed, when used carefully and reasonably, is good. Sure, it must be tempered in residential areas, but it’s only human nature when out on the open road. See, humans drive according to what feels comfortable, and in an age of four-wheel disc brakes, small-overlap crash protection, and astonishing tire technology, why not shave time off of a long freeway trip by traveling just a little bit faster than the government thinks you should? Better yet, send an email to your representative and ask for unusually low speed limits on certain interstates to be re-evaluated using 85th percentile guidelines. By speeding up the stragglers and maintaining average speed of traffic, speed differential decreases and roads get safer.

The Flush

Whelp, time to drop the lid on today’s edition of The Morning Dump. Happy Thursday, everyone. Friday is just around the corner. To celebrate, let’s play a game. What’s the worst car interior you can think of? It could be uninspired, it could be filled with heinous materials, or it could fall apart at any opportunity. I’ll start things off strong by nominating the interior of the sixth-generation Malibu. Launched in 2003 for the 2004 model year, this appalling use of cheap plastics certainly didn’t help the Malibu’s market share. Not only is it made of rather mediocre stuff, it’s ugly. Still, I’m all ears for what you consider to be the worst car interiors of all time. Maybe you’ll find something even worse than the Malibu’s dashboard.

Lead photo credit: Cruise

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57 Responses

  1. “Look, stigmatizing human behavior rarely works. Drugs are winning the war on drugs, and likely will continue winning for a long, long time. You want to actually help people and make privileges like driving safer? Understand their needs and habits, then deploy the great art of compromise to achieve a desired outcome. Speed, when used carefully and reasonably, is good.”

    Have you not driven lately?
    Don’t answer that. We already know.

    I was on the highway earlier this week. Speed limit 60MPH, I’m in the Porsche doing 70MPH.
    Rotted out pickup trucks with bald tires going by me at 90MPH. Shitty little CUVs doing 85+. Dodge Charger (of course) weaving and doing at least a buck. Right in front of no less than 4 cops allegedly running speed traps.
    Including in a construction zone with workers present.
    Meanwhile in the left lane and express lanes, random assholes doing 50-55MPH and not one iota more.

    If a car which can reach a top speed of more than 190MPH which can out-brake every vehicle on the highway piloted by somebody who actually knows what they’re doing isn’t comfortable doing that speed, you’re going way too fucking fast and if you aren’t keeping pace with traffic you’re going way too fucking slow.
    60MPH speed limits for 4 lane highways outside of construction zones may be complete and utter bullshit, but given your average driver these days can’t even operate safely on a 25MPH surface street, do you really want to give people that incredibly fucking stupid an actual license to do 80MPH+ in snow with two bald tires and a 10 years overdue alignment?

    “What’s the worst car interior you can think of? It could be uninspired, it could be filled with heinous materials, or it could fall apart at any opportunity.”

    I was going to say that, but then you reminded me, there really is something worse.
    Imagine materials even lower quality than the Malibu, selected without regards for ergonomics or safety (“hey let’s put highly reflective chrome on flat surfaces that blind the driver,” “plastic is great material for steering wheels,” etc.,) assembled with less clips and about as much care as the guy loading cars into the shredder, with electrical so poorly engineered it routinely melts connectors, the steering column U-joints routinely fail, the catalytic converters plug up before 60,000 miles due to the atrocious engine dumping unending trash into the exhaust, thrown together because “well I guess we have to,” and accumulating more than 1,000 TSBs for a single model year.

    Well good news! You don’t have to imagine it!
    It’s called the Pontiac G6.

    1. Good thing there are almost infinite other choices than the false speeding dichotomy you presented there.

      How about we let people go 90, and we take the drivers licenses away from people who do it in vehicles that aren’t suited – either because they’re driving a shitbox, or because it left the factory too heavy to have sufficient braking distance?

      Don’t make rules for the least common denominator, unless that’s what you aspire to be.

      1. Looks like you Americans need tech inspection to prevent rolling trash cans and a stronger driver education to prevent assholes.

        Speed traps can and do lower driving speeds, and are overall a good thing when used in a safety oriented manner (I.e not a cash grab on slopes and non dangerous area). The only portions of road where I see people actually drive in a reasonable manner are the ones with average speed cameras, and if I’m in a cruise-y mood that’s actually welcome.

  2. The Amarok note about its lone gas engine reminded me that back in the 90s there was also a 2.3L I4 in the Ranger, and some intrepid folks discovered it was fairly easy to swap the turbo version from the Merkur XR4Ti.

    A 50 HP gain may not sound like much, but when you’re starting around 100, it’s noticeable. Or was to me when I got to drive one. I tried to convince my dad to do the same, but he declined. His ’96 2.3L remains stock.

  3. Worst interior I have encountered in a modern car was the second generation Prius. Hard plastics everywhere. The doors were covered in hard black smooth plastic, no texture. Piano black on the center console, light tan cloth interior, faux aluminum silver plastic around the air vents.

    Worst of all time is a harder question for sure. The Corvette button wall? GM truck interiors, like the trailblazer? How about the Ford Taurus where everything was oval? Late aughts Dodge (i.e. The Avenger)? How about the Tesla i-Pad glued to the dash?

    I nominate the Fiat Multipla

  4. In January, it looked like it 2022 was going to be the year that the supply chain started returning to something that looked like normal. Since then, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the 63 day Shanghai Covid lock down and rapid inflation has put that into question.

    The silver lining is that for supply chain managers, there is a significant imperative to start bringing supply base and production back to home markets. Over the next three years, expect to see more of what you buy made closer to where you live. Prices may go up 10-15%, but lead times will go down, and carbon emissions associated with manufacturing / transportation will drop significantly.

  5. How about we fix the actual problems on the roads and make it a helluva lot more difficult to pass the driving exam instead of letting anyone with a pulse get a license. It should be like Norway. Start teaching kids to drive at 12. By the time they are 16, they not only know the basics but how to drive in bad weather and road conditions.

      1. You think any politician is going to let them throw half the drivers off the road? Even if it’s the half that is “below average”? We’ve built a country where for many people there’s no options other than driving. Now we get to lie in that bed.

    1. Or even just start with revoking fucking licenses instead of pretending it’s some sacred thing that has a higher bar to removal than going to jail or losing your right to vote.

      Oh yeah, it is literally orders of magnitude harder to remove a driver’s license than to send someone to prison for the rest of their life.
      I can tell you for absolute fact I know of at least 6 habitual DUIs – we’re talking more than 4 OVI convictions each – who still have their license. 2 of those 6 literally killed people in wrecks while driving drunk. The ‘worst’ punishment they get is expensive insurance and maybe ‘party plates’ (scarlet letter plates that the cops just ignore anyway.) But revoking their driver’s license? However will they get to work (drunk) and drive home (drunk) and get entertainment (at the bar getting drunk and driving home.

      And jesusfuck, do not even get me started on the boomers and literal Alzheimer’s patients.

      1. Plenty of people driving without a license now. If there aren’t “show your license” roadblocks, and significant jail sentences, you think these bozos won’t continue to drive? They might have to have someone else do the car paperwork is all. In my state, a used car comes with the old plates. I knew one guy for whom the amount of time left before tab time was a major factor in selecting a truck. Don’t know what sort of driver he was, though he did like his drink, but his license had gotten taken away because he owed a zillion bucks in back child support.)

    2. Because this country is still built around driving to and from places? America needs massive changes to infrastructure and inter-city travel before we can even consider changes to how people can legally get around. Of the top 20 largest cities in America, only 13 have barely functional mass transit and even fewer have intercity rail.

      Like it or not, giving the majority of people a DL is necessary for the economy.

      1. right, but even before the new rebadged Ranger, for years and years VW made their own Amarok and never made it in Mexico 🙁

        My issue predates any agreement VW had with Ford regarding these trucks.

        Speaking of VW-Ford gentlemen’s agreements, that’s also the reason we never got the European Ford Galaxy and VW Sharan MPV minivans in the US.

  6. The worst interior? Geez, pick any GM vehicle from mid 1970s to at least the Reatta or Allante. But oddly somehow I miss the smell of the plastic in my Grandma’s 1968 Malibu or 78 Nova. Maybe it was making me high, who knows. And yes the interior of the 1974-1982 Corvette’s sucked.

  7. worst interior to be in for me is Tesla, moving almost everything to the big iPad is the single worst user friendly thing ever, and that is before you even get to that stupid yoke steering wheel

  8. The worst interior in any car I’ve ever experienced was a Mk IV VW.

    GM interiors may have been made of cheap materials, but at least they were reasonably durable. The VW was disintegrating in front of my eyes at barely a decade old.

    “For years, American enthusiasts of reasonably-sized trucks have coveted the Volkswagen Amarok.”

    I highly doubt this is true.

  9. Hi everyone! I am part of the former Jalopnik/Oppositelock commentariat who decided to immigrate to here after Kinja erased my blog posts (one even having gotten the attention of James May), decided I should be relegated to the grays after years of being a productive commenter with many stars given and finally logged me out after being logged in for years with no way to reset my password or create a new account. So no more clicks from me to them!

    Carry on!

  10. While I’m all for speed, I’d like to see some sources on the statement that when limits increase then “speed differential decreases and roads get safer.” I think there are a huge number of our ever older drivers who are afraid of the road, wrap themselves in larger vehicles that are farther from it, and who aren’t going to drive any faster no matter what – and I’m not at all sure that they should. If these drivers drive the same speed (and in the left lane, natch) then I think the speed differential will generally INCREASE.

  11. How about a national drivers license?
    This nonsense of 50+ states, Commonwealths and territories all issuing licenses with different criteria is absurd. I see it all the time here in Sunny Florida, where everyone is from away, and no one else knows how to drive, or what to expect from other drivers!
    It seems to me that Speed is less of an issue than stupidity or inattentiveness.

  12. 1) Again, call me when literally any AV can pass literally any driver’s license exam in literally any of the fifty states. Until then, keep them off the goddamn road before someone gets killed. We do that with humans, why can’t we do it with driverless cars? The net effect is the same if the “driver” can’t correctly figure out how to drive safely for the conditions.

    2) “They say that speed kills. Speed has never killed anyone. Suddenly becoming stationary – that’s what gets you.” – Jezza

  13. “Cliff told reporters he wants speeding to be “as undesirable and seen as negatively as other bad” driving habits.”

    Like “driving bigger vehicles than you strictly need?”

    Sorry Cliff. You can take your speeding stigma and stuff it. According to 90% of people I see on the highway, the vast majority of everybody hates your take. Only two types of people agree with you. Liars, and a tiny, terrified minority. If you’re worried about safety, try making people _actually learn how to drive properly_ first. Especially when they’re driving vehicles that weigh over 5000lbs, or when towing a trailer. Both of those things should require training, testing, and a license endorsement.

      1. I’m 66 and used to live in the People’s Republic of Illinois. A deer walked in front of my SAAB convertible in a driving rainstorm and we wound up totaling the car. Deer ran off. I dutifully reported the accident to the Illinois Secretary of State. When I went to renew my license, the clerk said I had to retake the written (computerized) test because of my accident involvement. There was absolutely no benefit to my taking the test (maxed it). The only benefit might be that mentally impaired oldsters might not be able to pass the computerized test, but I’d be willing to be they allow “assistance” from a family member if the computer experience is too daunting. Most folk at 65 aren’t barking mad yet. Some are, but the medical community and family members would be better equipped at taking the keys away. I’m not fond of slow drivers in the left lane either!

  14. I actually sort of like the ’04 Malibu, especially in base model (with Ecotec) form. It’s the epitome of An Car, a competent forgettable box. I even find the interior marginally better than the ’97-’03 Malibu it replaced, although I think that’s mostly because those are prone to aggressive seat wear (a side bolster collapses over the years and then the fabric wears down), and the shifter was oddly shaped and uncomfortable to operate (For me at least – kept jamming my thumb into it when shifting).

  15. I have a ’91 Yugo GV Plus, final year, like Jason’s, the “good” ones. I adore the car for its charm, but it is not even fitted with a glove box. It’s 31 years old and yet the hard plastic interior still smells of whatever possibly-now-banned materials they were using back in Yugoslavia then to put it together. It has only two HVAC ducts, both in the center and conveniently located to blow outside air at your right knee. There is only a small bank of rocker switches to control the fan and the lights. There was no radio fitted at the factory, a condition mine still remains in. The horn button of every grey-interior Yugo that still exists has deteriorated in color so that it no longer matches anything else inside. On the Plus models, they simply screwed a pad over the lower dash to meet new knee impact requirements.

    Like I said, I love the car, it’s a lot of fun and a historical artifact. But if this isn’t the worst interior of all time then I don’t know if I understand the question.

  16. The author’s questioning if AVs make sense for passengers is silly. There is no money to be made from automating passenger cars.
    There is, however, a gigantic Jupiter-sized pile of money to be made from automating TRUCKS. It won’t be automated Vans and CUVs that t-bone you, it’ll be 80-ton semis.

  17. It is possible that, if the Prius was really in a right turn only lane, that the Cruise recognized this and calculated that the Prius was going to turn right, and therefore have right-of-way over the Cruise’s left turn, so the Cruise yielded. Granted, if the Cruise determined this, it shouldn’t have started the turn in the first place, or should have been aggressive and completed the turn with more urgency if it originally miscalculated the Prius speed.

    1. Yeah, I’m all about criticizing AVs, but if the Prius really went straight out of a turn only lane that may have messed up Cruise’s expectations so it stopped in the middle of the intersection to avoid accelerating into a crash. Without full details of what happened it’s hard to say who was at fault, or if there was fault on both sides.

      Although I may be particularly inclined to side with the car that didn’t blow through a turn lane since I nearly got hit last summer by someone who did that (and then had the gall to honk at _me_ for their mistake).

  18. I would say the worst dash was in the 2007 Ram refresh. Hard plastic everywhere and no attempt to make it appealing. You could tell that Chrysler was being starved to death by Daimler Benz when their top cash cow got that interior and then Cerberus (what an appropriate name) drove them the rest of the way into bankruptcy.

    As far as the Ranger being the source for the Amarok. What is the issue? Everyone sees the Ranger as being the best small pickup out there. It’s not like they are basing it on a 20 year old Nissan Frontier chassis. VW seems to have learned from the Routan debacle to actually make it their own.

  19. This is actually a great time to tackle speeding. Take out ads everywhere correlating fuel usage with speed. Put up a real time calculator with fuel prices showing how much every extra MPH will cost you. Sure, not everyone is going to care. Just look at what most people choose to drive and besides, they will blame Biden anyway. There will, however, still be people who take a moment to realize that sticking to the speed limit will save them money, not just from fines, but at the pump too.

  20. Oh, please don’t play those “What’s the worst X?” games here. That’s the kind of nonsense that they pull over at that German lighting company. The world doesn’t need more negativity right now. We’re enthusiasts; let’s focus on the things we love, not the things that we hate!

    1. True, they also do this on the al-fresco-gelatinous-meal website, but when it is done only as part of their speed-change-in-the-aurora, it is actually quite engaging. The problem started when they decided to basically outsource their content to the community in a cumbersome click-click-click format.

  21. I would be happier if as a nation we were consistent with speed relative to the posted limit. That can be achieved by both fixing speed limits that are wrong and enforcing them where they set appropriately. Most places 5 above is fine. However, I’ve traveled through some areas where 30 above is the norm and others where 5 below is the norm. That’s fine for the locals who know, but people passing through can be a hazard until they figure out the unofficial speed limits.

    1. That would be nice.

      I drove across the country a couple years ago in a Cadillac Fleetwood. Texas I’m not sure I was able to drive under 90 anywhere.

      You just have to go with the flow and hope those in charge don’t notice your out of state plates.

  22. Thomas, the answer to your lead-off question is “yes.” Human drivers make mistakes too, but can sometimes correct them before any serious damage is done. For more years (and miles) than I care to add up, I have taken my chances with others flesh-and-blood vehicle operators, and prefer to continue doing just that.

    There have been a zillion truly lousy interiors in my experience, many coming from GM products of the ’80s and ’90s. I prefer to remember the good ones. Oddly enough, the most memorable and usable seem to have come from the UK and Europe. Nice, big, clear instruments, and minor controls that, to coin a phrase, fell readily to hand.

    Oh, and that photo of the Lexus SUV? Reminds me I need to plug in the ol’ razor and shave….

  23. The worst interior ever fitted to a car was in the Saturn Ion.

    I’m even a center-mounted gauges apologist – mostly due to actually really enjoying the setup in the late 2000s Yaris – but the Ion does absolutely everything wrong.

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