Activists are calling the protests "The Week of Cone."

Street Fight

A group of activists in San Francisco is waging a pitched battle against autonomous vehicles by brandishing a surprising weapon: traffic cones. By placing the cones on self-driving cars' hoods, they're effectively turning the vehicles into useless hunks of metal and plastic.

The group, Safe Street Rebel, is protesting against the encroachment of self-driving cars owned by Waymo and Cruise, which are hoping that a vote by a state commission panel on July 13 will allow them to expand their robotaxi operations in the city, according to ABC 7.

The activists, who are calling their actions leading up to the vote "The Week of Cone," don't want this to happen because they think this expansion will increase the number of cars in the city, the vehicles are unsafe to pedestrians, and they block traffic such as buses and emergency vehicles.

"As a pedestrian, I am concerned," a member of the activist group told ABC 7. "I see them stop and open their doors in the bike lane. I feel rushed when crossing the street in front of them. If I take the bus, I wonder if it will stall and all 40 of us will be stuck behind it."

Cone Heads

Safe Street Rebel, which has been posting its cone operation on Instagram, is seemingly able to disable the cars because the cones block LIDAR devices on the car's roof, according to Motherboard.

"We view these not as some revolutionary new mode of transportation or anything, but really just another way for auto companies… to further entrench car dominance and car reliance in our cities," one group member told Motherboard.

In 2017, Vice reported a somewhat similar hack in which artist James Bridle trapped a self-driving car inside a circle made of sprinkled salt.

Beyond the San Francisco activists, others have grown wary of self-driving cars, such as residents in Tempe, Arizona where an irate pedestrian attacked a Waymo vehicle and its driver last year, according to The Verge. Arizona in particular has become a hot bed for attacks by irate residents because Waymo has been deploying its self-driving vehicles in the state for the last several years.

Waymo called the traffic cones dangerous, describing them as a form of vandalism, according to ABC 7. Cruise told the news broadcasters that the prankish protests are hampering its charitable efforts, such as giving free rides to service workers late at night, recovering food waste from city businesses, and providing meals to poverty-stricken residents.

But with self-driving cars further poised to expand their reach beyond places like San Francisco and Arizona, while Tesla's Autopilot is beset with accidents, we should expect more protests and scrutiny when the rubber literally hits the road.

More on autonomous vehicles: Autonomous Vehicle Attacked by Furious Pedestrian

Share This Article