When Waymo started vehicle testing in Chandler, Ariz., in 2016, the company most likely expected some friction with the community: Autonomous vehicle development will at some point lead to replacing human drivers with advanced technology, and that doesn’t sit well with everybody. Turns out the backlash has been significant — and violent — with people sabotaging the test vehicles and endangering the safety of the cars’ human backup drivers.
As reported by the Arizona Republic and New York Times, the attacks have ranged from sliced tires to thrown rocks, to people attempting to run the test vehicles off the road. Guns have been brandished, and a worrying case had a driver aim a Jeep head-on at a Waymo car to force it to stop.
A driver was said to “find it entertaining” to mess with the Waymo vehicles by brake-checking them, a habit that dated back to an incident where the driver’s 10-year-old son was reportedly “nearly hit” by a Waymo car when playing in a cul-de-sac. The Tempe, Ariz., fatality involving an Uber car has also raised tension between Waymo and regular Arizona folks.
Some 21 attacks have been directed toward Waymo in Chandler, with a possibility that not all hostility has been reported to the authorities, and that more unrest will follow. Douglas Rushkoff, a media theorist from New York’s City University, spoke with the NYT about the rationale:
“There’s a growing sense that the giant corporations honing driverless technologies do not have our best interests at heart,” Rushkoff said. “Just think about the humans inside these vehicles, who are essentially training the artificial intelligence that will replace them.” Rushkoff is the author of a book that happens to be titled “Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus.”
In a statement, a Waymo representative said the attacks “involved only a small fraction of the more than 25,000 miles that the company’s vans log every day in Arizona”.
And Rob Antoniak, chief operating officer of Phoenix’s Valley Metro transit system, said Arizona was still welcoming autonomous cars despite the publicized attacks. “Don’t let individual criminals throwing rocks or slashing tires derail efforts to drive the future of transportation,” he said.
And some of the altercations have been less violent: In one incident, an intoxicated man simply stood in front of a Waymo vehicle to prevent it from moving. Fortunately, it complied.
Waymo self-driving vehicles face attacks in Arizona originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 02 Jan 2019 09:40:00 EST.
Did You Know:
Waymo’s mission is to make it safe and easy for people and things to move around. We aim to bring fully self-driving technology to the world that can improve mobility by giving people the freedom to get around, and save thousands of lives now lost to traffic accidents.
The World’s Most Experienced Driver™:
We’ve put our technology through the world’s longest and toughest ongoing driving test. We’ve now driven over 10 million miles on public roads and 7 billion miles in simulation. That’s hundreds of years of human driving experience that benefits every vehicle in our fleet. With every mile we drive, we never stop learning.
We’ve tested our self-driving vehicles across multiple locations in the U.S. By driving every day in different types of real-world conditions, we teach our cars to navigate through all sorts of situations.
Waymo Safety Report:
When it comes to driving, experience is the best teacher. Waymo’s fully self-driving technology has driven over 10 million miles on real-world roads since 2009. In that time, we’ve built a comprehensive safety program to guide our testing and development of fully self-driving technology.
Waymo’s first-of-its-kind Safety Report provides an overview of Waymo’s processes for the safe testing and deployment of this technology, and the work we’re doing to make it safe and easy to use.
Download the Waymo Safety Report https://waymo.com/safety.
Waymo has outlined the procedures that we will follow with police, firefighters, and other first responders for driverless testing and operation in the Waymo Emergency Response Guide and Law Enforcement Interaction Protocol below. This document supplements the overview of how we design, test, and validate our technology in the Waymo Safety Report. https://waymo.com/safety
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