Peo­ple try­ing to crash self-driv­ing cars in Ari­zona

The Province - - EDRIVING - — Alex Reid

Crit­ics of au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles in Ari­zona have taken to phys­i­cally at­tack­ing Waymo self-driv­ing cars, just as the Google spinoff started its first fully driver­less oper­a­tions in early De­cem­ber.

Since Waymo launched its self-driv­ing test ve­hi­cles in 2016, there have been some 21 at­tacks in the state, with the pos­si­bil­ity that many more were un­re­ported, ac­cord­ing to the Ari­zona Repub­lic and the New York Times.

The at­tacks have in­cluded peo­ple throw­ing rocks at the ve­hi­cles and slash­ing their tires or, even more vi­o­lently, run­ning the ve­hi­cles off the road and bran­dish­ing guns.

One case even saw the driver of a Jeep aim head-on for the Waymo ve­hi­cle in a sort of game of “chicken,” and an­other saw a driver brakecheck a Waymo car that al­legedly nearly hit the driver’s 10-year-old son in a cul-de­sac.

These at­tacks are dan­ger­ous for the hu­man backup driv­ers in­side the self-driv­ing cars, who other mo­torists might not even re­al­ize are in­side.

“Just think about the hu­mans in­side these ve­hi­cles, who are es­sen­tially train­ing the ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence that will re­place them,” of­fered New York City Univer­sity me­dia the­o­rist Dou­glas Rushkoff in an in­ter­view with the New York Times. ‘He sug­gests the at­tacks are in re­sponse to the grow­ing worry ro­bots are re­plac­ing hu­mans.

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.”

Ari­zona was also the site of one of the most widely known deaths linked to an au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle, that of Elaine Herzberg in Tempe, in March 2018. Herzberg was cross­ing the street with her bi­cy­cle when she was hit by an Uber self-driv­ing test Volvo whose backup driver was dis­tracted.

— AP

A Chrysler Pacifica mini­van equipped with Waymo’s self­driv­ing car tech­nol­ogy pulls along­side a cy­clist.

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