Residents of the town of Chandler, AZ have been attacking autonomous cars being tested in the area, including violence such as slashing tires and even pointing guns at Waymo cars that are undergoing testing in Chandler.
The Arizona Republic reported that there had been twenty-one of these attacks in the last two years, many of which have been under the radar. Attacks have ramped up since the death of a pedestrian in March in nearby Tempe, AZ.
Recently, Waymo launched a self-driving taxi service in Phoenix, the first program of its kind, and hopes to expand the service after testing in the area.
However, many in the region are frustrated with autonomous car testing for a variety of reasons which lead to these attacks. Some claim that these cars are unsafe, while others hold some anger against Waymo’s parent company, Alphabet.
In one police report, a “heavily intoxicated” man stood in front of a Waymo vehicle, claiming he was “sick and tired” of the company having its cars drive around his neighborhood.
In another incident in August, 69-year-old Roy Leonard Haselton pointed a gun at a Waymo car in an attempt to scare the driver. According to the report, Haselton stated “he despises and hates those cars and how Uber had killed someone.” Haselton, whose wife says he has dementia, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and disorderly conduct.
Phil Simon, an information systems lecturer at Arizona State University, says that people don’t like companies like Waymo for how they present a threat to their livelihood. “This stuff is happening fast and a lot of people are concerned that technology is going to run them out of a job,” he explained.
A spokesperson for Waymo emphasized their focus on safety in a recent statement. “Safety is at the core of everything we do…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.”