There have been nearly two-dozen attacks on driverless cars over the last two years in Chandler, Arizona, a city near Phoenix where Waymo started testing its vans in 2017. According to a report in The New York Times, city officials have heard complaints from residents, especially fears over driverless cars being unsafe and taking jobs away from human drivers. Some people have pelted Waymo vans with rocks. Others have repeatedly tried to run these vehicles off the road.
Resistance to New Technology
One woman even reportedly yelled at one of the vans telling it to get out of her neighborhood. In another incident, a man pulled up alongside a Waymo vehicle and threatened the driver inside with a piece of PVC pipe. In yet another more serious case, a man waved a .22-caliber revolver at a Waymo vehicle and the emergency backup driver who was at the wheel.
Apparently, he told the driver he hated driverless cars and referred to the killing of a female pedestrian back in March in Tempe, Ariz. In that case, the emergency backup driver was believed to have been watching shows on her phone when she crashed into the pedestrian and fatally injured her. At least 21 attacked have been reported against Waymo vans in Chandler. Some analysts say they expect more such behavior as the nation moves into a broader discussion about the potential for driverless cars to bring about major changes in American society.
Some experts are saying people are lashing out because they fear this technology will take jobs away from human drivers. There is this sense that large companies are perfecting driverless technologies so they can save labor costs and put people out of work. Waymo has stayed away from pushing for prosecution of the assailants in Chandler because it fears that could cause the situation to get worse and affect its testing efforts in the city.
Concerns About Safety
As auto defect lawyers, our biggest concern about driverless vehicles is that they might be out on our roadways before they are ready for primetime. Obviously, we do not condone these attacks on self-driving vehicles and drivers. But, we do believe people are justified in their fears that these vehicles may not be safe for the road.
It is not surprising that the pedestrian accident in Tempe, Arizona, stoked fears among residents in neighboring Chandler that a similar crash involving a driverless vehicle might occur in their city or neighborhood. If there is a message for companies that put out driverless cars, it is that they need to test their vehicles on a track, not on the roadway, unless the vehicles are ready for public roadways.