Armed with traffic cones, protesters are immobilizing driverless cars

In San Francisco, an activist group named Safe Street Rebel is using traffic cones to immobilize driverless cars in protest against the city being used as a testing ground for autonomous vehicles technology.

The coning incident: The act dubbed as “coning” involves setting a traffic cone on the hood of a driverless vehicle, which promptly incapacitates the technology-packed car until the cone is removed.
* This campaign has been executed several times over the past few months by Safe Street Rebel, a group protesting against the experimental use of San Francisco’s streets by autonomous vehicle companies.

Protests against the tech industry: The “coning” of driverless cars falls in line with previous protests in San Francisco regarding the tech industry’s impact on the city.
* Over the years, tech industry related protests have included actions against Google’s private commuter buses and opposition to electric scooters flooding city sidewalks.
* The Safe Street Rebel’s coning protest is aimed at getting public attention towards the issue of tech projects being tested in San Francisco with very little input from city residents.

The state of autonomous vehicles: Companies, such as Cruise (owned by GM) and Waymo (owned by Alphabet), operate numerous driverless cars in the city, but have not provided explanations of why these can be immobilized by traffic cones.
* While these companies claim their vehicles are safer than human-driven ones, instances of near misses, accidents, and obstructions caused by autonomous cars have been cataloged by Safe Street Rebel and also reported by the city’s police and fire departments.

The caution in autonomous vehicles: Autonomous vehicles are designed to behave overly conservative when faced with potential road hazards, which sometimes results in unexpected or erratic reactions, such as being immobilized when a traffic cone is placed on their hood.
* Experts suggest while it aims to increase safety, this conservatism can also lead to driving behavior that can be disruptive or dangerous.

View original article on NPR

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