People Are Putting Traffic Cones on Self-Driving Cars in San Francisco

Dubbed “Week of Cone,” San Franciscans fed up with robotaxis are putting cones on them — leaving the cars useless. We’re obsessed.

Self-driving cars are occupying a larger part of our daily lives on this entropic space rock. That’s a fact; it’s a reality. However, how that future existence is being rolled out by companies like Waymo and Cruise is nothing short of disastrous.


They crowd streets and cause traffic. These cars can get between emergency crews responding to mass shootings. They hit cars; strike pedestrians; kill. 

San Francisco is rife with hundreds of these autonomous headaches that are by no means ready for their prime-time spotlight. And residents of San Francisco are getting fed up with them — now going as far as to put, coincidentally enough, traffic cones on their hoods.

Why, you ask? It appears doing so disables them and renders these vehicles limp and listless.

“A group of San Franciscans realized that they can disable Waymo and Cruise robotaxis by placing a traffic cone on the vehicle’s hood,” reads a tweet from mult-bylined reporter David Zipper in response to the launch of ConeSF by Safe Street Rebel, the social media handle responsible for putting on and reporting updates about Week of Cone.

“I see some tech bros wringing their hands in horror: ‘Won’t someone think of the AVs?!’” Zipper, who is a visiting fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government, continued. “Couldn’t disagree more. California regulators are forcing San Franciscans to become guinea pigs for work-in-progress AV [autonomous vehicle] tech. Active protest is a reasonable response.”


The viral protest, itself, comes at a salient time; a hearing that is expended to see Waymo and Cruise grow their robotaxi services in San Francisco is set to be held on July 13.

The hearing by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is expected to approve the expansion of both Cruise’s and Waymo’s autonomous vehicle passenger service deployments in SF.

Mind you: This agency doesn’t offer companies authorization to operate their driverless cars on public roads — because that responsibility sits with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The CPUC hearing will, however, get the legislative ball rolling toward the state’s DMV for rollout.

CPUC might also allow these AV companies, all of which are financially also because of funds put forth by venture capital firms, to green-light charging passengers fares for riding AVs. As of publishing, all customer trips in San Francisco are free through Waymo and Cruise. And in order to scale the larger adoption of AV tech on public roads, clearing this fiscal hurdle is imperative; such a leap is expected soon.

Alas, the creative protest against self-driving cars around San Francisco isn’t likely to change the minds of CPUC members. The commission’s Drivered and Driverless Pilot and Deployment AV passenger service program exists underneath a largely vague framework and, moreover, has not seen an amendment to the 2018 decision since November of 2020, despite more AV companies being permitted to operate in California. 

(Waymo, Cruise, AutoX, Aurora,, Ghost Autonomy, and Motional are the only AV tech companies currently permitted to operate self-driving cars in California.)

Suffice it to say a lot has changed in over two years around self-driving vehicles. We’d argue that new insights into how these cars negatively impact first responders doing their job is among the most important developments.

With around 240 Cruise cars operating in San Francisco alone, there are plenty AV cars to cone. But as one Twitter user found out: Even if you don’t have a cone, just lean against a parked one. It’ll still have an artificial existential crisis. 

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