Frustrated San Francisco Citizens Are Sabotaging Robotaxis with Traffic Cone Dunce Caps

Robotaxi spotted with a traffic cone over its hood's sensor
Robotaxi spotted with a traffic cone over its hood’s sensor

The city of San Francisco has been serving as the Guinea Pig for the prospect of robotaxis in major metropolitan cities in the United States. But much like many other experiments, the results may come with some unexpected side effects. In the case of these automated vehicles, those side-effects may include failure to recognize construction zones, following instructions from police officers, blocking emergency vehicles, and creating unwarranted traffic issues that directly affect other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. Now, some San Francisco locals are resorting to some “interesting” tactics to put these robotaxis in their place.

A Dunce Cap for the Robotaxi

A group known as “Safe Street Rebel” has been gaining popularity for their firm stances against driverless taxi services like Cruise and Waymo because of the amount of unnecessary problems they say the robotaxis cause. “They block busses & emergency vehicles, create more traffic, and are a surveillance nightmare.” Aside from protests online and in the city streets, Safe Street Rebel has resorted to using one common object to make a fool out of these automated vehicles… a traffic cone.

RELATED: Watch This Journalist’s Agonizing Experience Trying a Robotaxi For The First Time

Serving as an unofficial dunce cap, a traffic cone will be placed over the hood of the car, disabling it from driving anywhere around the city. “All you need is a cone and an empty AV,” the group wrote on their Twitter. “Gently place the cone on the hood—you just created a unicorn and temporary traffic calming!”

These automated taxi services have been under fire both from locals, as well as the national stage as a concept that sounded great in theory but isn’t quite ready for the public just yet. Companies like Cruise and Waymo have had vehicles block traffic, drive down the wrong way on one-way streets, be involved with collisions with city buses, and ignore instructions from police officers directing traffic. They have been such a thorn in the side of public safety that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched an investigation into the matter.

But despite the amount of bad press surrounding both companies, Cruise and Waymo have expressed their intentions of expanding beyond their current physical location and be available 24/7.

What Is The Future For Robotaxi Companies?

However, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) which oversees how these robotaxis operate within the state will vote on whether or not Waymo and Cruise vehicles will be allowed to expand their range of operations. Should these votes pass, city officials will have to archive every incident involving an automated vehicle while the complaints pile up unless both companies manage to upgrade the artificial intelligence programmed into their cars.

Unwilling to take this sitting down, members of Safe Street Rebel have utilized their traffic cone tactics to temporarily disable these vehicles and make a mockery out of the very concept of robotaxis. They also oppose the negative environmental impact of the manufacturing of these cars’ batteries, and the wear and wear on the tires that are also responsible for some particle emissions.

While not everyone is opposed to having robotaxis, some consider the group’s cone-topping tactics as counter-productive.

So what does the group believe are better alternatives to robotaxis? They suggest that California investing more in public transit like trains and buses is a better use of city funds than trying to restructure traffic in order to accommodate for AVs.

In the meantime, the CPUC will vote on whether the state of California will allow these AV companies to expand on their operations on July 13th, 2023.

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