Activists’ simple solution to stopping autonomous vehicles

San Francisco residents are protesting the expansion of Cruise and Waymo robotaxis in their city in a very simple way.

As seen in videos on TikTok and Twitter, the Week of Cone involves so-called safe streets activists putting a traffic cone on the bonnet of autonomous vehicles not transporting passengers.

The protest comes ahead of the upcoming California Public Utilities Commission’s Voting Meeting on July 13 where the body is expected to vote to allow the expansion of Cruise and Waymo in the city.

Indeed, that’s the “proposed outcome” in the meeting agenda, with the CPUC noting these proposed changes are “not anticipated to result in significant safety risks”.

Welcome to Week of Cone
On Thurs 7/13, the CPUC will vote to expand AVs in SF. Cruise & Waymo promise they’ll reduce traffic & collisions, but we know that’s not true. They block busses & emergency vehicles, create more traffic, and are a surveillance nightmare.
But there’s hope

— ConeSF – Week of Cone (@SafeStreetRebel) July 5, 2023

This change would allow these companies to charge fares for fully autonomous robotaxi rides throughout the city, 24 hours a day.

Under Cruise’s current permit, it can only offer paid robotaxi services from 10pm to 6am in limited areas, while Waymo’s permit requires it to have a human safety driver present. Both companies are permitted to offer a free, driverless service.

“Not only is this understanding of how AVs operate incorrect, but this is vandalism and encourages unsafe and disrespectful behavior on our roadways,” Cruise said in a statement published by TechCrunch.

“We will notify law enforcement of any unwanted or unsafe interference of our vehicles on public roadways.”

Said activists are protesting against this expansion for a multitude of reasons, including well-publicised incidents of self-driving vehicles blocking public transit, interfering with emergency services and even killing a dog.

Some of the images and video of coned vehicles, however, shows they’ve been stopped in their tracks in the middle of a street – precisely one of the complaints activists have made about these vehicles.

In one TikTok video advocating for the Week of Cone, activist Safe Street Rebel opposes the expansion of Waymo and Cruise as they “[partner] with police to record everyone all the time without consent” and “exist only for profit-driven car companies to stay dominant and make it harder for transit to stay afloat”.

Activists aren’t alone in objecting to the expansion of robotaxis in San Francisco.

“San Francisco expresses concerns about expansion of commercial service into peak hours of the day as stoppages and delays are likely to impact significantly more passengers both on the impacted transit line(s) and systemwide,” reads the CPUC’s summation of objections raised by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority (SFMTA), the SF County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) and the Mayor’s Office of Disability.

“Further, San Francisco describes unplanned stops and unsafe maneuvers by Cruise AVs that have impacted emergency responders.

“These include incidents where a Cruise AV obstructed a fire department vehicle traveling to an emergency, ran over a fire hose, or improperly entered an emergency scene.”

Naturally, taxi driver groups like the San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance and the Alliance for Independent Workers have also protested the expansion of robotaxis.

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