How to stop a drone with one cone: activists in San Francisco fight robot taxis
Safe Streets Rebel activists put traffic cones on the hoods of Waymo and Cruise cars to disable them.
An activist group called “Safe Streets Rebel” has come up with an unusual and effective method to stop Waymo and Cruise’s self-driving cars roaming the streets of San Francisco. They place traffic cones on the hoods of cars as part of a protest called “Cone Week”.
The Safe Streets Rebel campaign is timed to coincide with an upcoming decision by the California Public Services Commission to determine whether autonomous vehicle companies will be able to increase the number of cars in San Francisco and expand their hours of operation from night to 24 hours.
Activists expressed outrage that self-driving cars were the source of several incidents, including a collision with a bus and a run over by a dog. From January to June, the city reported ninety cases involving Waymo (owned by Alphabet) and Cruise (owned by General Motors).
A video from the group, which has nearly 5 million views on Twitter, shows drones blocking buses, ambulances and private cars. It also states that these cars cooperate with the police and record everyone without their knowledge. A key demand from activists is to rethink city streets, which must be designed with people and public transport in mind, not just cars.
The video also explains how one can stop one of the cars by simply finding a traffic cone, of which there are “enough” everywhere, and carefully placing it on the hood – but first you need to make sure that there are no passengers in the car. The group calls on everyone to join the protest against the developers of self-driving cars and vote against the expansion of their activities.
“It’s just wonderful,” said one of the organizers of the action. “We don’t damage other people’s property, this problem can be easily fixed, but it’s a fun and effective way that people really liked.”
Waymo wasn’t as enthusiastic about this practice. A spokesperson for the company said the cone action reflects a lack of understanding of autonomous vehicles and is “an act of vandalism that encourages unsafe and disrespectful behavior on our roads.” Waymo says it will call the police on anyone who interferes with its fleet of robot taxis.
In turn, Cruise noted that its cars have never caused a death or serious injury after driving 3 million miles on the streets of San Francisco.
The KRON4 TV channel reports that the city authorities expressed concern that the action could lead to an increase in traffic jams, as the stopped drone requires specialists to restart it.
The organizer of the action said that this is just one of many actions that Safe Streets Rebel has taken in an attempt to rid the city of cars, provide more funds for public transport and improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians. The group argues that self-driving cars pose a major safety and environmental risk despite being presented as an alternative to conventional cars.
“They still require wide roads, wear out tires, have cameras everywhere,” the organizer said. “The question is not just ‘are they safer than a human driver?’ We want healthy cities that don’t need these high-tech listening pods moving around.”