Waymo Self-driving Cars have been Attacked in Phoenix

The self-driving cars have had rocks thrown at them, tires slashed and even a gun pulled.
Jessica Miley

Waymo self-driving cars are under attack in Arizona. Tires have been slashed, rocks thrown and in one incident a gun was used to try and scare off the autonomous vehicles.

According to AzCentral, on August 1st Waymo test driver Michael Palos was moving through neighborhood of Chandler, Phoenix when he saw a man pointing a handgun at him. This is just one incident of violence against Waymo vans happening across the suburb, a test site for the autonomous cars.

Police respond to over 20 incidents over two years

Police in the area have documented at least 20 incidents of interference with Waymo vehicles over the last two years since testing of the self-driving vehicle began in the area. Among the reports were a tire getting slashed while the vehicle was stopped at lights, rockers thrown and in a terrifying story, a Jeep tried to run a Waymo off the road 6 times.

In many of the cases, it seems the anger is fuelled at the company Waymo who have had a significant presence in the city since being granted a permission to test self-driving cars. The Waymo vehicles use radar, lidar and cameras to navigate, which also records all the incidents they become involved with.

Waymo reluctant to press charges

Despite having clear footage of the people and other cars involved Chandler police say that the company rarely presses charges. Most Waymo drivers seem more likely to use an internal communication channel to contact their supervisor than to call the police.

Waymo, which is a subsidiary of the company Alphabet, has said that all drivers are trained to handle threats. “Safety is at the core of everything we do, which means that keeping our drivers, our riders and the public safe is our top priority," the company said in a  statement.

Surging tech creates fear

"Over the past two years, we’ve found Arizonans to be welcoming and excited by the potential of this technology to make our roads safer. We believe a key element of local engagement has been our ongoing work with the communities in which we drive, including Arizona law enforcement and first responders.”

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But why all this anger? It's unclear exactly what is driving the hate towards Waymo, but some believe it has less to do with the company exactly and more to do with the fear surrounding new technology generally.

Loss of jobs might be a factor

Phil Simon, an information systems lecturer at Arizona State University suggests that it is difficult for many working class and middle-income families to celebrate huge technological breakthroughs when their own wages have fallen or stagnated.

The technology is also increasing at rapid rates and that information about the cars hasn’t been spread well. Many people in the neighborhood consider the cars a threat and don’t like the increased numbers of self-driving vehicles in the area.

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