There’s a lot of hate to these driverless cars, it seems.
It’s been a couple of years since Google parent-company Waymo launched their autonomous vehicle testing program in the US state of Arizona, with the majority of the fleet comprising of self-driving capable Chrysler Pacifica minivans fitted with all the auto-drive technology on a roof fixture. It’s been a running joke that these autonomous vehicles, which are designed to avoid a collision at all costs, can very easily be ‘scared’ with just the slightest hint of animosity towards it. But it seems that that joke isn’t so funny for Waymo drivers in Arizona.
Over the last two years, no less than 21 ‘interactions’ were recorded by the police in Chandler, where members of the public have harassed these vehicles unprovoked. This includes multiple incidents of people simply yelling at them, but also cases of rocks being hurled at them, people simply standing in front of them (which we think is a little bit funny), the cars themselves getting brake-checked, and even run off the road (six such incidents like this, allegedly by the same Jeep driver).
The worst case of all was when a Waymo van cruised through a Chandler neighbourhood minding its own business when, from a residential driveway, a man aimed his handgun at the self-driving minivan. The suspect was 69-year old Roy Leonard Haselton, who was subsequently arrested. Waymo test drivers usually do not pursue charges in relation to these incidents but in the case of Haselton pointing his gun at the car, it was a no-brainer really.
The report by Arizona Central says that while the Chandler police recorded 21 incidents in two years, the number could very well be higher thanks to Waymo internal policy. Drivers are to report incidents to Waymo first before contacting the local authorities, which means that in less-extreme or less-dangerous situations, it’s entirely possible that Waymo advised them to simply let it go (cue intolerable Disney music). But it seems that the time of autonomous vehicles getting bullied on the roads is already upon us.