Technotage on the Rise? More Efforts to Stymie Job-Threatening, Sometimes Hazardous “Innovations”

Both concerted and isolated efforts to thwart newtech appear to be rising. Since no one yet seems to be tracking this trend systematically, perhaps because it might inspire more hijinks and vandalism, we are forced to rely on anecdata.

One campaign has even gotten the attention of the BBC, the so-called “coning” of driverless cars in San Francisco, which conveniently leads them to stop without harming them.1 From the BBC’s above the fold story today, How robotaxis are dividing San Francisco. Note the image below of a beached robotaxi is at the very top of the piece:

But as I am about to get in, a passer-by approaches.

“They’re unsafe,” he tells me. He says he saw someone nearly get run over by a robotaxi – and warns me to be careful.

He represents a faction in San Francisco that doesn’t like robotaxis – and believes the city has agreed to a dangerous experiment, which is putting lives at risk.

And some have gone a step further. Over the summer a campaign group has begun to disable the cars, by putting cones on their bonnets.

Safe Street Rebel describes what it does as “coning” and some of its videos have gone viral. But city officials are committed to allowing them to operate on their streets – for now

The article provides a litany of complaints, which from causal contact, isn’t close to complete and omits some of the most dangerous cases. It mentions fire trucks being blocked but not ambulances. A reader reported that a robotaxi frozen in a left turn tied up traffic in an entire section of town during or close to rush hour.

The article also mentions the hazard the driverless taxis pose to livelihood of human cab drivers.

David L sent a much more informative story from NPR on August 26, Armed with traffic cones, protesters are immobilizing driverless cars. Key sections:

Two people dressed in dark colors and wearing masks dart into a busy street on a hill in San Francisco. One of them hauls a big orange traffic cone. They sprint toward a driverless car and quickly set the cone on the hood.

The vehicle’s side lights burst on and start flashing orange. And then, it sits there immobile.

“All right, looks good,” one of them says after making sure no one is inside. “Let’s get out of here.” They hop on e-bikes and pedal off…

Coning driverless cars fits in line with a long history of protests against the impact of the tech industry on San Francisco. Throughout the years, activists have blockaded Google’s private commuter buses from picking up employees in the city. And when scooter companies flooded the sidewalks with electric scooters, people threw them into San Francisco Bay.

“Then there was the burning of Lime scooters in front of a Google bus,” says Manissa Maharawal, an assistant professor at American University who has studied these protests.

She points out that when tech companies test their products in the city, residents don’t have much say in those decisions: “There’s …very little input from anyone who lives here.”

That gets to the crux of Safe Street Rebel’s protest…

“We thought that putting cones on these [driverless cars] was a funny image that could captivate people,” says one organizer. “One of these self-driving cars with billions of dollars of venture capital investment money and R&D, just being disabled by a common traffic cone.”

But contrary to the BBC and NPR just having discovered this technotage, coning has been in the news since at least early July, and clearly perfected before that. Reader Rolf A sent us a July 7 article from the San Francisco Standard, Activists ‘Coning’ Cruise and Waymo Robotaxis in San Francisco:

A cohort of anti-autonomous vehicle activists in San Francisco has taken to placing traffic cones on the hoods of Cruise and Waymo robotaxis to literally stop their progress.

The only-in-San Francisco scene causes the vehicles to go into shutdown mode and turn their hazard lights on until the cone is removed or a company technician comes to reset the car’s system, according to activists and video posted online.

Dubbed the “Week of Cone” by the activist group Safe Street Rebel, the crusade is being organized in the lead-up to a California Public Utilities Commission meeting scheduled for July 13. At the meeting, commissioners are poised to approve an unlimited expansion of Cruise and Waymo robotaxi services in the city.

Safe Street Rebel is an activist group that first formed around the debate about reopening the Great Highway to cars. Since then, it has organized actions around a number of transportation-related issues, including keeping JFK Promenade car-free, promoting bike safety on Valencia Street and preventing traffic deaths.

Last month, the group staged a protest against public transit funding cuts where demonstrators blocked the Highway 101 off-ramp, and an activist dressed up as Gov. Gavin Newsom beat up a piñata shaped like a Caltrain car.

So Safe Street Rebel is also using more traditional activist measures to try to advance other issues, but the stoppage via cone is novel. Sadly the Week of Cone did not succeed, since the hopelessly captured California Public Utilities Commission approved completely unrestricted driverless cabs. That has resulted in such great outcomes as (hat tip Kevin W) San Francisco’s North Beach streets clogged as long line of Cruise robotaxis come to a standstill, reported on August 12 in the Los Angeles Times:

One day after California green-lighted a massive expansion of driverless robotaxis in San Francisco, the implications became clear.

At about 11 p.m. Friday, as many as 10 Cruise driverless taxis blocked two narrow streets in the center of the city’s lively North Beach bar and restaurant district. All traffic came to a standstill on Vallejo Street and around two corners on Grant. Human-driven cars sat stuck behind and in between the robotaxis, which might as well have been boulders: no one knew how to move them.

The cars sat motionless with parking lights flashing for 15 minutes, then woke up and moved on, witnesses said.

Aaron Peskin, who represents North Beach on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, fears what could happen when a major fire or other life-threatening emergency breaks out with multiple robotaxis blocking the way. “Our houses in North Beach are made of sticks,” he said. Peskin was flooded with texts, emails and videos from constituents as the robotaxis, programmed with artificial intelligence software, sat unresponsive. In one video, zeroing in on a robotaxi’s “driver” seat, a man says “this is what our country has come to.”

Cruise tried the “dog ate my homework” excuse of blaming the cell phone network.

Later in the story:

Peskin said city officials are pursuing “every means” to have the CPUC decision reversed, and are discussing whether to seek a court injunction. Another option: fining Cruise and Waymo thousands of dollars for each robotaxi road blockage.

The CPUC, and Gov. Gavin Newsom, in Peskin’s view, are putting big money ahead of basic public safety. The CPUC “has not been held in high esteem by the people of California for a very long time,” Peskin said. All five CPUC commissioners were appointed by Newsom, including the former Cruise attorney.

“If you’re looking for an example of regulatory capture, you’re seeing it now,” Peskin said. “It’s unethical and immoral but legal,” he said. “Bottom line, this all goes to Gov. Gavin Christopher Newsom.”

However, despite the way the coning is getting national and even international attention, if the robotaxis are cut back, it won’t be due to coning but a whole coalition of forces using every means to stop them, with traditional legal measures being the blunt instrument. The BBC oddly missed that curbs have started. From San Francisco Chronicle on August 18, California DMV cuts Cruise’s fleet after S.F. crashes involving its driverless cars:

The California Department of Motor Vehicles asked Cruise on Friday to reduce its fleet of driverless taxis by half pending an investigation into recent crashes, including two in San Francisco on Thursday night. Related: Robotaxis make these 5 common mistakes on S.F. streets — in front of Uber, Lyft drivers “Cruise has agreed to a 50% reduction and will have no more than 50 driverless vehicles in operation during the day and 150 driverless vehicles in operation at night,” a statement Friday evening from the DMV said. “The DMV reserves the right, following the investigation of the facts, to suspend or revoke testing and/or deployment permits if there is determined to be an unreasonable risk to public safety.”” rel=”nofollow”>The California Department of Motor Vehicles asked Cruise on Friday to reduce its fleet of driverless taxis by half pending an investigation into recent crashes, including two in San Francisco on Thursday night. Related: Robotaxis make these 5 common mistakes on S.F. streets — in front of Uber, Lyft drivers“Cruise has agreed to a 50% reduction and will have no more than 50 driverless vehicles in operation during the day and 150 driverless vehicles in operation at night,” a statement Friday evening from the DMV said. “The DMV reserves the right, following the investigation of the facts, to suspend or revoke testing and/or deployment permits if there is determined to be an unreasonable risk to public safety.”

The BBC account bizarrely missed this development completely, and instead was a lame account of the reporter’s personal experience in a robocab plus an assortment of quotes on the pros and cons. The NPR story did mention it, but only in passing and spent much more time on the approval

However, there appear to be no instances of coners being arrested or even warned by police. The Safe Street Rebels took the position with NPR that it isn’t clear that what they are doing is illegal. I am highly confident police could get creative with public nuisance and even public endangerment laws if they wanted to. Police inaction reflects the fact that the city and presumably the cops themselves are dead set against robocabs.

By contrast, another revolt against technology is underway in London, and is having more immediate success due to the destruction or removal of devices, which will take time to replace:

For those new to this topic, the Independent gives the backstory and more detail in Camera attacks and conspiracy theories: How Ulez became a vigilante battleground:

For Londoners living on the outskirts of the capital, Sadiq Khan’s Ulez policy is due to take effect on Tuesday despite fierce backlash.

First announced by former mayor Boris Johnson in July 2014 and expanded to all 32 of London’s boroughs by Mr Khan, the scheme aims to reduce air pollution by charging non-compliant vehicles £12.50 a day to drive within an ultra-low-emission zone.

Launched within the central London congestion charge zone in 2019, the clean air policy means that cars and vans that don’t meet certain emissions standards have had to pay a daily fee or risk a £180 fine.

Mr Khan has always argued that only a minority of vehicles will be affected by the charge, with a spokesperson for the mayor’s office saying only one in 10 cars driving in outer London isn’t compliant – though this figure is disputed by critics. Separate figures obtained by the RAC show that more than 690,000 licensed cars in the whole of London are likely to be non-compliant, but this does not take into account other types of vehicle, or those that enter London from neighbouring counties….

Public opposition to Ulez has also led to the formation of an anonymous activist group called the “Blade Runners”, who have vowed to take down all of the scheme’s cameras. So far more than 380 have been targeted, with the Met Police reporting 185 destroyed cables, 164 stolen cameras, and 38 obscured. While the covert group has avoided creating social media accounts, one member interviewed by Mail Online claimed that the Blade Runners had more than 100 members involved in disabling the cameras.

As much as it seems hard to be on the side of pollution, remember that the UK has had marked inflation and poor growth, with high food prices and surging electricity costs last winter. The Guardian has made UK cost of living crisis a topic, and if you click through, you’ll see several relevant stories every day. London is a sprawling city, so even if some commuters and businesses wanted to make more use of public transport, that does not mean it’s realistic in terms of the tax on time.

Physical action against the cameras is not the only form of refusnikdom. The Daily Mail weighs in: Ulez cameras revealed: Interactive map shows how to dodge Sadiq Khan’s enforcement cameras and avoid £12.50-a-day charge.

Finally, a sighting from the US. A colleague reported that a contact decided to drive the Hunter Thompson route from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. He had rented an electronic vehicle and needed to recharge in Barstow, California. Barstow is a back-of-beyond town in a red area of the state (contrary to popular perceptions, the land area of California is dominated by conservative but not heavily populated rural counties).

The driver first stopped at the WalMart, which was dirty and even more depressing than they usually are. A woman with a baby showed up at the one charger at pretty much the same time he did, so he decided to be chivalrous and let her us it.

He went to the local Costco, which was even more bedraggled than the WalMart.2 It had an entire charging rank but none of them were operative. And that was not due to a maintenance fail but destruction. They all were smashed in a similar manner, perhaps with a crowbar.

My colleague though this might be an angry resident striking out against rich people transiting through. Perhaps. But in September 2022, California regulators approved a ban on the sale of gas-powered cars starting in 2035. Experts believe it might take until 2050 for these vehicles to disappear.

That might seem a long way away. But if you are lower income, you were either directly affected or knew people who were hurt by the huge runup in used car prices during Covid, thanks to shortages of chips reducing the supply of new vehicles. Or if your livelihood depends on the internal combustion engine, say as a mechanic, you won’t be too happy about this prospect.

California had to retreat from an earlier plan to promote the transition to cleaner cars. In the early 1990s, California plus a coalition of Northeast states banded together to support an zero-emission mandate, which in California translated into 2% of the vehicles offered for sale in 1998 being emission-free. I drove a GM EV prototype in the early 1990s as part of due diligence for a venture capitalist, so the car companies were taking action.

But the mandate was scuppered when it was clear that consumers were not ready to buy EVs and there was not much point in requiring automakers and dealers to “offer” cars that would for the most part never be put on the road.

Now the Barstow incident is presumably isolated, even if the motivation behind it was political. But watch to see if anti-EV vigiliantism rises as gas car phaseout dates approach.

1 This was a weird bit of synchronicity, since I planned to take up this topic today.

2 For non-American readers, this is very much contrary to expectations. Costcos are membership-only shops, catering to middle/upper middle class consumers.

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  1. Mark my QR-Code

    I have heard that E-scooters’ QR-codes and the cameras can be covered with permanent markers of the non-water-soluble kind.

  2. ambrit

    Would opposition to the coming wave of Central Bank Digital Currencies be considered a “Tech” issue? This issue is gaining traction within the “alt” social media sphere. Aligning itself with the Prepper movement, physical metals trade, (mainly silver, an always fraught subject, and gold for the “higher income level” cohorts,) and barter, (Systeme ‘D’,) are being touted heavily in some circles. Stripping out the hucksterism, there does seem to be a popular concern involved.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I would not include it in this category unless they are taking measures to interfere with the operation of CBDBs, like malware or destruction of infrastructure. I have not heard of anything like that.

      1. Synoia

        The LA, , Orange County South to San Diego, plus the 10, 57 and 91 freeways could be considered one huge Central Business district.

        For example: Commuting is the problem. One spouse works in Irvine, and the other in the film district north of LA.

        The couple settles in a home midway between their jobs, and contribute to to the mess. Public Transport? Not available.

  3. digi_owl

    Thinking about it, this do have some of the same energy as the Luddites smashing early garment machinery.

    At the same time things like placing a cone on the hood is a reminder of how premature these systems are.

    Basically what has happened in tech circles in recent decades is the embrace of the Zuckerberg slogan “move fast and break things”. Resulting in products that ship in a minimally viable state, and expecting a persistent net connection for either frequent updates or offloading the computing to a server farm.

  4. The Rev Kev

    Well its not exactly the Butlerian Jihad but it’s a start. Decades ago high tech had the promise of making our lives better – or that is what they promised. Instead we have seen how it has been repurposed to making our lives worse. Everytime we go online we are being surveilled & sold out, Lime bikes litter the streets and footpaths, driverless cars appear in the street which have killed people and caused traffic jams, cameras are deployed to watch us so that we can be fined easier. I think that people are finally getting jack with the whole thing and are choosing to take action rather having all these things being deployed to make our lives worse. Our high tech overlords certainly are not listening to our complaints. The politicians have been bought by high tech and will green light whatever they want. In thinking this over, I can think of more and more examples of how high tech has made our lives worse from software, telephone calls, parking meters, etc. but then realized that it could be quite an extensive list. Maybe too extensive which is why the beginnings of this fightback.

    1. Kouros

      Yeah, I was thinking that a new section might be needed and since we have The Jackpot already, The Butlerian Jihad seems more than appropriate. New Luddites is not as catchy…

  5. Michaelmas

    There will be increasing Luddism. A Jobs Apocalypse appears to be genuinely in the offing, with its front edge probably due to really start hitting in 2-4 years.

    [1] Look at these robots, for example —
    — which are due to reach markets in 2025 and made for contexts like Amazon warehouses.

    The current average salary of an Amazon warehouse worker is $16.50 an hour. Agility’s Digit robots are designed to individually last 20,000 working hours.

    Do the math: 20,000 hours of a human Amazon worker costs Amazon $330,000. Meanwhile, the price of the previous Digit iteration was $250,000, and my guess is they can fairly easily get the 2025 version down to a price point of $180,000 or less.

    Thus, over an individual robot’s ‘lifespan’, that’s a savings of $150,000 for Amazon, for workers that are networked and can work 24 hours without bathroom or any other kind of human-style work breaks (till the machines break down, anyway) and without the necessity of the kind of air-conditioning in warehouses that humans require.

    This is not an isolated example.

    [2] As for the resistance to the Ulez expansion in London outer boroughs: –

    As the scheme is currently operated in London’s inner boroughs, there’s currently a tax of 12 gbp per day or slightly more $450 a month to own and operate an internal combustion engine there. That’s dealable with because : (a) London’s public transport network of tube and bus (and taxis and ubers) is so near-ubiquitous that using it is frankly far less of a tax on one’s time than driving and parking a car; (b) those of the inner borough’s population who insist on operating cars there seem to be so affluent they can afford it e.g. on a 20-yard stretch just below the Portabello Road, on the way to the gym last week I saw two brand-new Lamborghinis.

    Conversely, in the outer boroughs — suburbs like, say, Willesden Green — the public transport network is less ubiquitous and people there definitely cannot afford to pay a tax of 450 dollars a month to continue operating their current ICVs and probably can’t afford EVs (unless maybe the UK cuts a deal to let the Chinese import their cheaper EVs).

    All in all, this expansion of the Ulez scheme has the potential to create enough resistance that Sadiq Khan’s days as Mayor of London may be numbered and it could even upset the applecart for Starmer’s Labour, which hopes to get in at the next election — which means that Starmer and co. may push for Khan’s Ulez expansion to be repealed as soon as it can.

    We shall see.

    1. Mark Gisleson

      The ‘garchs never anticipate how easy it is to wrench new tech. Sharpies have been mentioned, most manufacturing sites still use grease which can be misapplied in countless creative ways, some humorous most not. I can’t imagine what black grease could do to a robot but it would be fun to experiment.

      Every workplace has within it everything you need to slow down or shut down that workplace and no one knows that better than the folks at the bottom of the corporate heap. Support from the trades and it’s game over (trades know how to shut off water and electricity and deliveries which can be helpful ; )

      The Blob will flip the script in the near future. This con’s run its course and the workers will revolt unless tricked into waiting just a little longer. I’m thinking 25th Amendment time but with the caveat of Biden’s crew insisting it’s temporary and that he’ll be back. [sorry, no clue about London or the UK]

      They think they can kick all the cans down the road forever.

  6. TopHat

    Using traffic cones to sabotage autonomous taxis is not a good idea. But this might present a relatively easy problem for vehicle technologists to fix.

    There is a bigger issue with autonomous vehicles and it is one related to capital allocation. Specifically how much are we spending to develop autonomous cars and trucks, and what particular problem will this technology improve or fix.

    Spending tons of money to put autonomous vehicles in cities has always seemed like a bizarre idea to me. This technology I think was first commercially adopted in mining which kind of made sense. It’s an industry where they run a limited number of trucks in circles, round the clock, in order to perpetually move rocks across open spaces from one side of a mountain to another. Little traffic and lots of rocks to move.

    But spending hundreds of billions to put autonomous vehicles in urban areas is something that seems less useful to me. It involves putting automation in the same cars and trucks that we’ve had for decades so they can drive across the same roads and highways that we’ve had for decades. There are only so many cars and trucks that you can put on these transportation arteries before traffic flows become unstable and break down into congestion or traffic jams. The point I’m getting at here is autonomous vehicles will not deliver anything faster, and it will not deliver more of anything over a given period of time – traffic will always restrict this.

    What’s its really doing, particularly in an urban context, is replacing human drivers when there isn’t currently a shortage of them and the cost benefits are not substantial. Uber might want to replace its human drivers so it can collect the full fare for every trip, but then they will have to pay for all the transportation overhead that is currently covered by its drivers (vehicle lease payments, vehicle insurance, vehicle maintenance and repair, gasoline, road tolls, traffic tickets, and mobile phone bills). I’m not sure how much of a benefit they will get from implementing this technology – and that’s if it works.

    Other transportation technologies, like railroads and steam ships and the internal combustion engine, all provided massive boosts in transport efficiency for their time. Railroads replaced horse drawn carts because they could transfer more freight over longer distances over shorter periods – a lot more. Autonomous vehicles on current roads and highways, however, cannot increase the frequency of trips, or shorten delivery periods, or deliver over longer distances. They can only replace the driver in what is an inherently restricted network.

    There might be a way to slightly increase this efficiency, but it is unclear if the cost associated with doing this would be prohibitively expensive. It would involve building autonomous vehicle only highways, and assigning a networking router like computer to manage them. The computer would control all the autonomous vehicles on this highway, simultaneously, and determine the most efficient way for every vehicle to collectively travel from their entry to exit ramp. It would function in the same way as computer routers that are manufactured by companies like Cisco, which determine the most efficient way for data packets to make they way through a telephone or computer network. How these vehicles get to the highway on ramp or to their final destination from the highway exit ramp might be managed by drivers at a remote location in the same way that unmanned aerial drones operate. The point here is safety and some efficiency – but in a way that may not be cost effective.

    So while autonomous cars or trucks are a nice novelty and a curiosity, this technology will probably not be able to provide the same types of efficiencies as our transportation innovations from previous centuries.

  7. elissa3

    My slightly edited comment posted on Wolf Street:

    Robotcars are not in the mid-term future (5-8 years) in most environments for the following reasons (not in any particular order).

    1) Insurance issues. Unless a government authority waives their financial responsibility, insurance companies will be paying out enormous sums for a robotcar’s mistakes. So, they will not be enthusiastic about insuring them. Rates for humans are largely based on demographics and driving record, IOW actuarial factors.

    2) What does the robot car do when faced with killing the little girl chasing her bouncing ball versus killing the 3 old adults in a head-on collision?

    3) Hacking. There are plenty of bad actors in this country. Whether for intent to hurt or just for kicks.

    4) There are many roads in the area where I live (small city/suburban/and country) where a speed limit of 25 mph is largely disregarded by 99% of drivers when conditions allow–daytime, dry road, 1/4 mile visibility. I can’t imagine a situation where many or all robocars are programmed never to exceed the speed limit. Maybe fine for grid-type cities as cited. This would be a less efficient form of good mass transit, (lack of which is the real problem), but not practical from a behavioral point of view. Note: Wolf constantly cites the 40K annual deaths by our imperfect drivers, but wouldn’t an excellent way to reduce this be simply requiring individuals to re-test periodically. Like other commenters, I consider our local drivers to be the worst in the world, and I’ve driven in challenging conditions on four continents. After a near miss, I sometimes shake my head and wonder if the driver got his/her license from a Cracker Jax box. (This dates me, I know).

    5) I feel that there is a limit to what our biped bodies and minds will accept from tech. Again, maybe it’s my age, but I will NOT sit as a passenger in a robotcar over which I have no discretion to intervene. And even if I do have that discretion, then why bother since I’d have to be alert all the time? Driverless programmed trains on rails, yes; programmed buses on fixed routes, also; trucks on interstates (already here?), OK. But not a robotcar.

    Wolf is totally gung-ho on the inevitability of robotcars taking over American cities, and soon. I am much more skeptical. Four years ago our local city council, wisely in my view, prohibited electric scooters from using sidewalks in our small, very tourist-oriented city.

    1. elissa3

      Oh, and not pilotless airplanes either. Even if they can’t eat the fish. (Used to fly small planes).

    2. digi_owl

      > 2) What does the robot car do when faced with killing the little girl chasing her bouncing ball versus killing the 3 old adults in a head-on collision?

      To me that is the least interesting failing of automated vehicles, thanks to examples already on the road failing in hilarious (Tesla detecting a truckload of non-functioning traffic lights ahead of it as constantly spawning and despawning traffic lights) and lethal (another Tesla failing to detect building materials stretching out towards it behind a stationary truck).

      So the outcome of the question above will either be that the car stop before hitting the girl because it was driving more defensively than a human, or drive over her because it didn’t detect her at all.

      If the computer has to do moral calculus, someone at engineering has screwed up badly.

  8. Henry Moon Pie

    Direct action gets satisfaction as the Wobs say.

    But what about all those carbon spewing ICE cars and super-big trucks? Should they get a free ride, so to speak? Maybe the gas and diesel guzzlers need their tires slashed or sugar in the gas tank. We have to stop our carbon buildup somehow.

  9. Piotr Berman

    I guess that deplorables of Barstow are not vandalizing EV charging facilities out of class animus against (comparatively) rich folks driving EVs, but because of opposition to looming EV mandates. Personally, I have big doubts about rationality of such mandates and subsidies. My reasoning is: how much CO2 reduction we get for a fixed amount of money?

    I was surprised two years ago that the price of Honda compacts was the same for hybrids and regular models, and in city and other stop/go traffic, hybrids reduce fuel consumption about 50%. Moreover, this uses baseline of quality compact cars that consume about 25% fuel than average cars. Thus with no subsidies
    a. we can make a big reduction simply by expanding market share of hybrids, which already happens with gasoline above $3/gal, but could be accelerated
    b. popularizing compact and subcompact cars, as opposed to SUVs and vans (which can be hybrid too…)

    Then come plans for electric trucks. In moving goods, the largest CO2 hog in USA is relatively minor share of ton x mile traffic that railroads have. As most of us know, railroads consume several times more energy per ton x mile than trucks. And in such ultra-leftist publications like Bloomberg (and Forbes, if I remember correctly) there were laments how customer unfriendly American railroads became. Moreover, railroads can be electrified without lithium… 74% of railroads in India are electrified, USA could at least match India (China technological level of railroading is beyond realistic target for USA). Once bulk of long distance cargo is moved by rail, the need for long distance trucks with enormous batteries (and 400k price tag) would be vastly removed. Given how hopeless it is to develop high speed passenger trains in California, the money could be better spend on rail capacity to take care of the entirety of port servicing and to deliver goods within 100 if not 50 miles of locations with major cargo demand. If that requires nationalization of railroads, it can be included in economic calculus for the project.

  10. ChrisPacific

    The coning tactic is very clever. Aside from not requiring any sort of destruction of property, it’s funny (which always helps with media coverage) and it also provides a concise visual metaphor for how helpless these vehicles are in the face of any kind of unusual or unforeseen circumstance. That’s a lot of information being conveyed by a single image.

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