Not everyone is ready to embrace a future full of autonomous vehicles. Despite this resistance, companies like Waymo have vehicles out on the streets right now as part of the testing process. This seems to be hitting a nerve with reports of those vehicles being attacked in Chandler, Arizona.
It seems that not everyone wants testing to happen in their neighborhood, which is understandable. These are vehicles driving the streets on their own, which is a scary proposition. While there are still human drivers at the wheel to take over if needed, the mere idea of driverless cars testing on public roads is making people in Chandler a bit testy.
The attacks have varied from slashed tires to more frightening incidents. There are reports of people throwing rocks at Waymo vehicles and even of people trying to run them off the road. One man brandished a gun in defiance of the self-driving technology.
Erik O’Polka was issued a warning for repeatedly trying to run Waymo vehicles off the road. He even drove at one head-on to force the vehicle to stop. His wife said Polka likes to brake hard in front of the vehicles and that she had even yelled at them to get out of the neighborhood.
It’s not that these people have some aversion to technology, at least not in the O’Polka’s case. They claim their 10-year-old son was nearly hit by a self-driving vehicle, so this is personal. They don’t like the real-world testing out of safety concerns.
Those concerns aren’t entirely misplaced. A self-driving Uber struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona. This was even with a human driver at the wheel. The fear that these cars shouldn’t be on the road yet is very real.
There have been 21 reported attacks on Waymo vehicles. This is a small number given how many miles are driven every day, but there’s no way of knowing how many attacks went unreported. Not every traffic altercation is documented, even when they don’t involve self-driving cars.
Whether people like it or not, Waymo has no plans to stop testing in Arizona. This technology is coming one way or another and testing on public roads is a part of the process. Throwing rocks and employing aggressive driving tactics might make those who don’t want the testing feel better, but it’s also making the testing process even more dangerous for everyone.