Activists in San Francisco have come up with a new way to stop self-driving cars after robotic vehicles were blamed for a series of incidents, including the killing of a dog in June and crashing into the side of a bus in March. .
The Safe Streets Rebel protest group, which advocates for pedestrian safety, has posted several videos on its social media platforms showing how they disable automated taxis by placing a traffic cone on the hood.
The campaign is timed to coincide with the California public utility commission’s vote on whether or not to expand driverless car services. The two main automated taxi companies are Cruise, owned by General Motors, and Waymo, owned by Google.
On Instagram, Safe Streets Rebel called the campaign The Week of Cone. It’s a great moment. We’re not damaging anyone’s property, it’s very fixable, but it’s a fun and effective tactic that has really resonated,” said a member of the group. The Guardian.
In a statement, Waymo criticized the protesters, calling their actions “vandalism” and accused members of the group of encouraging “unsafe and disrespectful behavior on our roads.” The company promised to call the authorities if they found out that their cars had been tampered with.
Placing a traffic cone on the hood of the driverless car disables it, protesters say they are trying to raise concerns about safety issues surrounding robotic cars.
Driverless cars have been involved in a number of incidents, including crashing into a city bus.
While Cruise highlighted his public service in a statement about the protest cone.
‘The cruise fleet provides free rides to late-night service workers without reliable transportation options, has delivered more than 2 million meals to food-insecure San Franciscans, and reclaims food waste from local businesses.
“Intentional obstruction of vehicles stands in the way of those efforts and risks creating traffic congestion for local residents,” the news release continued.
KRON reports that city officials also spoke out against the protest, pointing to the fact that if a car is disabled, tech experts are required to restart it, potentially causing more congestion.
Cruise also noted that his cars have not been involved in a single death or serious injury after racking up three million miles on the streets of San Francisco.
Safe Streets Rebel seeks to make public areas safer for pedestrians and cyclists, while also campaigning for more funding for public transport. Targeting the robotic cars is a new starting point for the group, their previous targets being human drivers.
Last month, the group made headlines for a protest over public transportation funding cuts that included a member dressed as California Gov. Gavin Newsom banging on a piñata, it reports. the banner of San Francisco.
‘They still require wide roads, tire wear, they have tubes everywhere. It’s not just ‘are they safer than a human diver?’ We want healthy cities that don’t require these high-tech surveillance pods to move,” one activist told The Guardian.
Waymo is owned and operated by Alphabet, the parent company of Google.
In a statement, Waymo criticized the protesters as a form of “hooliganism.”
In an interview with abc San Francisco, another member of the group said: “Even if you have the perfect driver, which is how it comes across, they are still fundamentally unsafe as a two-tonne metal box moving around town.”
The Safe Streets Rebels’ concerns have been echoed by San Francisco Police Chief Jeanine Nicholson, who has urged officials to slow down to allow more self-driving cars more freedom on the streets.
“We had two vehicles come to a dead stop in front of fire trucks trying to get out the door of the fire stations to take emergency calls,” Chief Nicholson said. KTVU.
In June, a Cruise car was accused of blocking emergency service vehicles from accessing the scene of a shooting. Also in June, two Waymo cars stopped near the city’s Gay Pride Parade.
Self-driving car expert Billy Riggs of the University of San Francisco told KTVU in an interview that data shows self-driving cars are safer than human-driven cars.
“We still see problems where, just like a human driver, they run into situations, one in a million situations that they haven’t encountered before,” Riggs said.
The cone protest is scheduled to end on July 9, but one protester told the Standard that the cone has become so popular it may have taken on a life of its own.
“People could continue to do them, if not as a form of protest, then just for joy,” he said.
Waymo, which started as a secret project inside Google in 2009, has been running a driverless transportation service in the Phoenix area since October 2020, but navigating the density and difficulty of more congested cities like San Francisco has raised Most daunting challenges for robotic taxis to overcome.
That’s one reason Cruise’s recently approved self-driving service in San Francisco is being so tightly policed. In addition to being restricted to places and times where there is less traffic and fewer pedestrians on the streets, Cruise’s driverless service will also not be able to operate in heavy rain or fog.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk promised that his electric car company would operate a fleet of robotic taxis by the end of 2020. That didn’t happen.
While Cruise’s application for a driverless taxi service in San Francisco drew broad support from supporters who hoped the technology would be viable in other cities, some transportation experts urged the Public Utilities Commission to exercise caution.
“Many of the purported benefits of (autonomous vehicles) have not been proven, and some claims have little or no substantiation,” Ryan Russo, director of the transportation department in Oakland, California, told the commission in May.
Uber, the largest ride-sharing service, expected to have 75,000 self-driving cars on the road by 2019 and to operate a fleet of driverless taxis in at least 13 cities by 2022, according to court documents filed in a high-profile case charging Waymo’s trade secret theft company.
Uber ended up selling its self-driving division to Aurora in 2020 and still relies almost exclusively on human drivers who have been harder to recruit since the pandemic.
And Tesla CEO Elon Musk promised that his electric car company would be operating a fleet of robotic taxis by the end of 2020. That didn’t happen, though Musk still promises it will eventually.