San Francisco residents are protesting the expansion of Cruise and Waymo’s robotaxis in their city in a very simple way.
As seen in videos on TikTok and Twitter, Cone Week involves so-called safe streets activists placing traffic cones on the bonnets of autonomous vehicles that do not carry passengers.
The protest comes ahead of the upcoming California Public Utilities Commission Voting Meeting on July 13 where the body is expected to vote to allow Cruise and Waymo expansion in the city.
Indeed, that’s the “proposed outcome” on the meeting agenda, with the CPUC stating these proposed changes “are not expected to result in significant safety risks”.
This change will allow the company to charge for fully autonomous robotaxi rides throughout the city, 24 hours a day.
Under Cruise’s current permit, it can only offer paid robotaxi service from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. in limited areas, while Waymo’s permit requires a human safety driver to be present. Both companies are allowed to offer free driverless services.
“Not only is the understanding of how AVs operate incorrect, but this is vandalism and encourages unsafe and disrespectful behavior on our roads,” Cruise said in a statement published by TechCrunch.
“We will notify law enforcement of any unwanted or unsafe interference with our vehicles on public roads.”
Activists protested the expansion for a variety of reasons, including well-publicized incidents of self-driving vehicles blocking public transit, disrupting emergency services and even killing a dog.
Some images and videos of the cone vehicles, however, show them being stopped in the middle of the road – exactly one of the complaints activists have made about these vehicles.
In a TikTok video promoting Week of Cone, activists Safe Street Rebel opposed the expansion of Waymo and Cruise because they “[partner] with the police to record everyone all the time without consent” and “exist only so that profit-driven car companies remain dominant and make it harder for transit to survive”.
Activists are not alone in protesting the expansion of robotaxis in San Francisco.
“San Francisco is expressing concern about the expansion of commercial service into peak hours of the day because stoppages and delays are likely to impact more passengers on transit lines and the rest of the affected system,” reads a summary of the CPUC objection raised by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority (SFMTA ), the SF County Transportation Authority (SFFCA) and the Mayor’s Office of the Disabled.
“Furthermore, San Francisco describes unplanned stops and unsafe maneuvers by Cruise AV that have impacted emergency responders.
“This includes incidents where the Cruise AV obstructs a fire vehicle traveling to an emergency, hits a fire hose, or improperly enters the scene of an emergency.”
Indeed, taxi driver groups such as the San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance and the Alliance for Independent Workers have also protested the expansion of robotaxis.