People Rage Against Waymo Self-Driving Cars by Pointing Guns at Them and Slashing Their Tires
These are just a few of the cited incidents involving the autonomous machines and Arizona residents, a report says.
Waymo is now operating a commercial ride-hailing service using self-driving cars in Arizona, but it seems not everyone is happy about that. AZCentral documented a litany of incidents in which Waymo test vehicles and their drivers were harassed by local residents.
One man pointed a handgun at a Waymo minivan as it drove past his driveway, police in Chandler, Arizona, told AZCentral. People have also thrown rocks at the cars, and one vehicle had a tire slashed while it was stopped in traffic, police said. Chandler police said 21 incidents have occurred over the past two years.
Waymo's human safety drivers are trained to handle threats, according to the company. The report found that, when drivers are harassed, they typically contact Waymo's own dispatch center first, rather than going directly to the police. Law enforcement would prefer that drivers contact them directly since this enables faster response times, the report said, but that doesn't appear to be the standard operating procedure. Waymo has reportedly stopped sending vehicles to neighborhoods where residents have complained about them, or harassed drivers.
Police also noted incidents of Waymo test cars being harassed by drivers in other vehicles. A Jeep driver allegedly tried to force the minivans off the road six times, while a driver in a Hyundai supposedly followed a Waymo minivan until the vehicle pulled into a police station. The driver of a Chrysler PT Cruiser pulled alongside a Waymo minivan and made "threatening gestures and faces," then did the same to a second vehicle, according to AZCentral.
Waymo self-driving cars have triggered road rage and even been involved in crashes because they often drive much more cautiously than the human beings around them. But AZCentral attributes the incidents in its report to suspicion of Waymo and its technology, noting that people may be afraid of automation costing them jobs.
Nearby Tempe, Arizona, was the site of the first known fatal crash involving a self-driving car. An Uber test vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian there in March. Waymo announced its ride-hailing plans not long after that, but it's possible that not all residents were so quick to trust autonomous cars. While some people's reactions to self-driving cars have been positive, gaining universal acceptance will be a long, drawn-out process.