Image credits: Roberto Baldwin
A decentralized group of San Francisco-based safe streets activists has realized they can disrupt the Cruise and Waymo robotaxis by putting a traffic cone on the hood of a car, and they’re encouraging others to do so, too.
“Cone Week,” as the group calls it in a joke spread on Twitter and TikTok, is a form of protest against the ubiquity of robo-taxi services in the city, and seems to be gaining traction with residents tired of vehicle breakdowns and traffic jams. The invocation comes in the run-up to a he heard It will likely see Waymo and Cruise expand robotaxi services in San Francisco.
The California Commission on Public Utilities (CPUC) is set to approve expansion of Cruise’s and Waymo’s autonomous vehicle passenger service deployments in San Francisco on July 13. The agency does not give companies permission to operate their autonomous vehicles on public roads – this is the ministry in the field of motor vehicles. But it does give companies the power to charge riders for that service, which is key to sustainably scaling automated rides and autonomous delivery.
In May, the Assembly published draft resolutions approving the expansion, despite growing opposition from city agencies and residents. Opponents have called for the series of utility vehicles that have impeded traffic, public transit and emergency responders, and asked the CPUC to move cautiously, set up workshops, collect more data, ban the deployment of robots downtown and during peak hours, and limit expansion of fleet sizes.
Other opponents such as the San Francisco Taxi Workers Coalition and the Coalition of Independent Workers protested against the proliferation of automated bots, which they said would do so. Eliminate the need for taxis and passenger car drivers.
The Safe Street Rebel cone campaign is an effort to raise awareness and invite more angry San Franciscans to submit public comments to the CPUC ahead of next week’s hearing.
“These companies promise their cars will reduce traffic and collisions, but instead they ban buses, emergency vehicles, and everyday traffic,” one video reads. Posted on social media. They didn’t even live with a person and a dog. They partner with the police to record everyone all the time without anyone’s consent. Most importantly, it requires streets designed for cars, not people or transit. It is only there for profit-driven auto companies to stay dominant and make it difficult for transit to stay afloat.”
While the above statement is a bit hyperbolic, there are fragments of truth. Cruise and Waymo vehicles have already stopped in the middle of roads, blocking emergency vehicles, public transportation, and general traffic. Recently, a Waymo AV device hit and killed a dog, but the accident seemed unavoidable. In 2018, an Uber self-driving vehicle was involved in an accident that killed a pedestrian in Arizona, but so far there have been no deaths from self-driving vehicles in San Francisco. And yes, the police tapped Cruz and Imo to get footage to help solve a few crimes, but there’s no evidence that the companies work hand in hand with law enforcement to record everyone all the time.
However, the group raises a common concern about the unleashing of self-driving vehicles on public roads — the lack of input from the regular people who have to deal with the vehicles on the ground. Congressional efforts to regulate self-driving cars have been several years overdue, so most of the regulations come from state transportation and motor vehicle departments.
“I see some technical brothers thinking with their hands in a state of horror:“ Isn’t anyone thinking about self-propelled vehicles ?! ” chirp David Zipper, visiting fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Tubman Center for State and Local Government, responded to the conical challenge. “I couldn’t disagree more. California regulators are forcing San Franciscans to become guinea pigs for the work in progress in audiovisual technology. An active protest is a reasonable response.
Another way of saying this:
“Absolutely not. We don’t agree with that,” said the Safe Street Rebel.
The group invites others to follow its lead and disable the vehicles by “gently placing cones” on the hood of the driverless car – meaning, empty. Some people it seems Submit requestsHowever, it is unclear how many people have submitted photos to Safe Street Rebel. The group did not respond to TechCrunch’s request for comment.
Waymo described the viral hack as a form of vandalism.
“Not only is this understanding of how AVS operates incorrect, but this is disruptive and encourages unsafe and disrespectful behavior on our roads,” the company said in a statement. “We will report any unwanted or unsafe intrusion of our vehicles on public roads to law enforcement authorities.”
Again with exaggeration. The definition of vandalism is intentionally damaging someone’s property – think of slashed tires or broken windows. Waymo probably won’t have any luck charging someone who puts a cone on the hood of their cars for vandalism.
Cruz told TechCrunch that she has a strong safety record and that, when compared to a human driverits autonomous driver had 73% fewer collisions with a higher risk of injury.
“The Cruise fleet provides free rides to service workers late at night without more reliable transportation options, has served more than 2 million meals to food-insecure San Franciscans, and recovered food waste from local businesses,” Cruz said in a statement. “Deliberately obstructing vehicles hinders these efforts and risks creating traffic jams for local residents.”
Despite guerrilla protests, the cone hoax likely had no bearing on the Canadian People’s Protection Committee’s decision. There is enough support from other stakeholders — including elected officials, accessibility advocates, technology industry groups, and business and economic development organizations — for the CPUC to weed out opposition. According to the next Hearing AgendaIt appears that the agency is ready to agree to license the software.
One of the agenda items read: “The proposed Cruise service is not expected to present significant safety risks.” The same sentiment is repeated with Waymo.
This article has been updated with a statement from Cruz.
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