Future Fear? Waymo Autonomous Vans Attacked in Arizona

Company documents 21 attacks against its vehicles to date

Waymo is suffering from vandals damaging their autonomous vans.

Chandler, Arizona is the community that Waymo and the state of Arizona agreed on for autonomous testing. According to Waymo, it is a rare occurrence. In their response, the company measured these attacks against the thousands of miles of successful testing it has completed to date.

Right now, in several states (including Arizona) experimental programs like Waymo are shuttling customers to various locations. In most cases,they have proven safe transportation, but there have several and fatal incidences. Is that enough to anger folks?

Autonomous systems aren't quite ready for primetime yet
Waymo vehicles have been involved in accidents while testing in Phoenix, like this one back in May 2018. [Photo: ABC15 Phoenix]

Why attack autonomous vans?

People have thrown rocks, slashed tires and played dangerous games with Waymo’s autonomous vehicles. Some folks simply stand in front of the vehicles egging them on to “come at me bro!” In some cases, the vehicles have to suddenly stop. Sometimes drivers try to run them off the road or deliberately force them into no-win traffic situations, like brake checking.

Why is this happening? Simply put, in some cases, people consider it fun. It’s like antagonizing an animal to some. In other cases, they may think it’s a way to collect insurance money, or an easy way to discredit Waymo. In other cases, the motive may be darker. There are some who look at autonomous vehicles as emblematic of a dystopian future.

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[Photo: Waymo]

I interviewed one Arizona resident who eagerly expressed his displeasure with companies like Waymo. It’s a good probability he represents a growing number of displeased citizens. They fear automation and, what they perceive as a loss of freedom. He summed up how he felt in one succinct phrase. “You can take my keys off my rotten corpse, Mr. Roboto!”

Who is Waymo?

The technology company, spawned from Google, has worked on autonomous technology since 2009. Recently, they partnered with Fiat Chrysler, and several of their test vehicles are Chrysler Pacifica PHEV minivans. The company just announced a Jaguar Land Rover partnership along with more orders for FCA’s cars.

If you happen to see people abusing an autonomous vehicle, please take a photo and let the local police department know. The research gained by organizations like Waymo can provide safer vehicles in the future, both automated and non-automated vehicles.

Plus – it’s just uncool to mess with a minivan.

Thank you to Autoblog and the Arizona Republic for providing valuable information for this story.