Vigilante citizens in a town in Arizona have slashed tyres, thrown rocks and even pointed guns at self-driving vehicles being tested in their neighbourhood, an investigation has revealed.
Police in Chandler recorded 21 incidents over the past two years in which the autonomous vehicles and their test drivers were targeted by local residents.
One incident on 24 October saw a man emerge from a park and slash the tyres of a Waymo vehicle stopped at an intersection. Earlier this year a Waymo test driver reported a man in shorts aiming a gun at his car when it passed the man’s driveway.
Police reports also show that rocks were thrown at Waymo’s fleet on at least four separate occasions, according to The Arizona Republic, while other incidents include people yelling at the vehicles, chasing them and forcing them off the road.
Many other incidents may have gone unreported, the newspaper suggested, with Waymo reportedly keen to minimise police interaction.
The underlying motivation behind such harassment appears to be frustration with Waymo’s parent company Alphabet, combined with fears the technology poses a threat to both jobs and road safety.
“Everybody hates Waymo drivers,” one resident told The Arizona Republic. “They are dangerous.”
Earlier this year, an autonomous vehicle being tested by Uber hit and killed a woman on a darkened street in Tempe, which borders Chandler.
Such frustrations led one man to block the path of a Waymo vehicle by standing in front of it.
The police report for the incident stated the man was “sick and tired of the Waymo vehicles driving in his neighbourhood, and apparently thought the best idea to resolve this was to stand in front of one of these vehicles.”
The company recently launched the first ever commercial self-driving taxi service in nearby Phoenix, with the hope of a much broader roll out in the coming years.
A Waymo spokesperson said drivers of its self-driving vehicles are trained to deal with threats from the public.
“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 spokesperson said.
“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 ongoing work with the communities in which we drive, including Arizona law enforcement and first responders.”
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