- Waymo self-driving cars in Arizona have had their tires slashed, and some of the vehicles’ safety drivers have had guns pulled on them, the Arizona Republic reports.
- Twenty-one instances of people attacking Waymo cars have been recorded, according to the Arizona Republic, citing police reports.
- It’s a fraction of overall traffic incidents – but the instances highlight a common fear people have about tech innovations.
Police in Chandler, Arizona – a Phoenix suburb where Waymo’s self-driving fleet has been testing since 2017 – have seen an uptick of people frustrated with the vehicles’ presence, the Arizona Republic reports.
According to police reports, there have been at least 21 instances where police were called because of people attacking the cars or threatening their human safety drivers. Tires have been slashed in traffic, guns have been pulled, and one man – fed up with the cars driving in his neighbourhood – even stood in front of a van until the cops arrived.
There is a human driver in every vehicle, even when it’s operating in self-driving mode. The company said drivers are instructed to use their discretion and contact police in any situation that makes them feel unsafe or could be dangerous.
“Safety is at the core of everything we do, which means that keeping our drivers, our riders, and the public safe is our top priority,” a Waymo spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “Over the past two years, we’ve found Arizonans to be welcoming and excited by the potential of this technology to make our roads safer. We believe a key element of local engagement has been our ongoing work with the communities in which we drive, including Arizona law enforcement and first responders.”
To be sure, 21 reports is a fraction of the volume of calls any police department in the country receives on a daily basis. Still, knee-jerk reactions to new technologies are to be expected at this point and have largely become the norm for quickly growing Silicon Valley companies.
Taxi drivers, for example, protested the rapid expansion of Uber and other ride-hailing services across the world. While in San Francisco, luxury buses to transport tech employees from the city to their corporate campuses were targeted by other residents.
Other incidents involving Waymo vehicles, like in California, have been the fault of human test drivers. In some cases, the self-driving software would have taken safer action.
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