People trying to crash self-driving cars in Arizona
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.
A Chrysler Pacifica minivan equipped with Waymo’s selfdriving car technology pulls alongside a cyclist.