Thanks in part to the Grand Canyon State’s mostly dry climate, Google’s autonomous tech division Waymo does a lot of its testing in Chandler, Arizona. But while Waymo has the city’s permission to use public roads, not everyone is excited about Chandler being chosen to help bring about the driverless future. In fact, some citizens are actively working to run Waymo out of town.
The New York Times reports that in the last two years, there have been about two dozen attacks on Waymo’s Chrysler Pacifica test vehicles. That includes throwing rocks at the vans, trying to run them off the road, and slashing their tires. The backup human drivers in the vans have also been screamed at and physically threatened. One resident even pulled a gun, which resulted in his arrest and the confiscation of his revolver.
“There are other places they can test,” Erik O’Polka, whose son was reportedly almost hit by a van, told The New York Times. “They said they need real-world examples, but I don’t want to be their real-world mistake.” In November, police issued a warning to O’Polka after receiving several reports that he’d been seen trying to run Waymo’s vans off the road.
But while Waymo says it prefers to avoid pursuing legal action against the people attacking its prototypes, it is concerned about the effect the incidents are having on the backup drivers. “The behavior is causing the drivers to resume manual mode over the automated mode because of concerns about what the driver of the other vehicle may do,” wrote one officer in his post-attack report. That said, Waymo has no intention of letting people damage its vehicles and threaten its drivers.
“Safety is the core of everything we do, which means that keeping our drivers, our riders, and the public safe is our top priority. 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,” a Waymo spokesperson told The New York Times. “We report incidents we deem to pose a danger and we have provided photos and videos to local law enforcement when reporting these acts of vandalism or assault. We support our drivers and engage in cases where an act of vandalism has been perpetrated against us.”
Source: The New York Times