People are attacking Waymo's self-driving cars in Arizona by slashing tires and, in some cases, pulling guns on the safety drivers

Waymo minivanOne of Waymo's self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans navigates autonomously around its testing facility at the decommissioned Castle Air Force base in Merced County, California, on Monday, October 30, 2017.Waymo

  • Waymo self-driving cars in Arizona have had their tires slashed and safety drivers have had guns pulled on them, the Arizona Republic reports.
  • Twenty-one instances have been recorded of people attacking Waymo cars, according to the Arizona Republic citing police reports.
  • It's a tiny fraction compared to overall traffic incidents - but they highlight a common fear people have about new tech innovations.

Police in Chandler, Arizona - a Phoenix suburb where Waymo's self-driving fleet has been testing since 2017 - have seen an uptick of people frustrated with the vehicles' presence, the Arizona Republic reports.

According to police reports, there have been at least 21 instances where police were called due to people attacking the cars or threatening their human safety drivers. Tires have been slashed in traffic, guns have been pulled, and one man - fed up with the cars driving in his neighborhood - even stood in front of a van until the cops arrived.

There is a human driver in every vehicle, even when it's operating in self-driving mode. The company is quick to point out that they are instructed to use their discretion and contact police in any situation that makes them feel unsafe or could be dangerous.

"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," a Waymo spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "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 our ongoing work with the communities in which we drive, including Arizona law enforcement and first responders."

Read more: Waymo announced two major executive hires as it races to launch a commercial self-driving car service

To be sure, 21 calls is a tiny fraction of the volume any police department in the country receives on a daily basis. Still, knee-jerk reactions to new technologies are to be expected at this point, and have largely become the norm for quickly growing Silicon Valley companies.

Taxi drivers, for example, protested the rapid expansion of Uber and other ride-hailing services across the world. While in San Francisco, luxury buses to transport tech employees from the city to their corporate campuses were targeted by other residents.

Other incidents involving Waymo vehicles, like in California, have been the fault of human test drivers. In some cases, the self-driving software would have taken a more safe action.

Waymo's first commercial taxi service launched earlier this month in Arizona, under the name Waymo One.
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