Wielding Rocks and Knives, Arizonans Attack Self-Driving Cars

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#1 Posted by Damedius (503 posts) -

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/31/us/waymo-self-driving-cars-arizona-attacks.html

CHANDLER, Ariz. — The assailant slipped out of a park around noon one day in October, zeroing in on his target, which was idling at a nearby intersection — a self-driving van operated by Waymo, the driverless-car company spun out of Google.

He carried out his attack with an unidentified sharp object, swiftly slashing one of the tires. The suspect, identified as a white man in his 20s, then melted into the neighborhood on foot.

The slashing was one of nearly two dozen attacks on driverless vehicles over the past two years in Chandler, a city near Phoenix where Waymo started testing its vans in 2017. In ways large and small, the city has had an early look at public misgivings over the rise of artificial intelligence, with city officials hearing complaints about everything from safety to possible job losses.

Some people have pelted Waymo vans with rocks, according to police reports. Others have repeatedly tried to run the vehicles off the road. One woman screamed at one of the vans, telling it to get out of her suburban neighborhood. A man pulled up alongside a Waymo vehicle and threatened the employee riding inside with a piece of PVC pipe.

In one of the more harrowing episodes, a man waved a .22-caliber revolver at a Waymo vehicle and the emergency backup driver at the wheel. He told the police that he “despises” driverless cars, referring to the killing of a female pedestrian in March in nearby Tempe by a self-driving Uber car.

“There are other places they can test,” said Erik O’Polka, 37, who was issued a warning by the police in November after multiple reports that his Jeep Wrangler had tried to run Waymo vans off the road — in one case, driving head-on toward one of the self-driving vehicles until it was forced to come to an abrupt stop.

His wife, Elizabeth, 35, admitted in an interview that her husband “finds it entertaining to brake hard” in front of the self-driving vans, and that she herself “may have forced them to pull over” so she could yell at them to get out of their neighborhood. The trouble started, the couple said, when their 10-year-old son was nearly hit by one of the vehicles while he was playing in a nearby cul-de-sac.

“They said they need real-world examples, but I don’t want to be their real-world mistake,” said Mr. O’Polka, who runs his own company providing information technology to small businesses.

At least 21 such attacks have been leveled at Waymo vans in Chandler, as first reported by The Arizona Republic. Some analysts say they expect more such behavior as the nation moves into a broader discussion about the potential for driverless cars to unleash colossal changes in American society. The debate touches on fears ranging from eliminating jobs for drivers to ceding control over mobility to autonomous vehicles.

“People are lashing out justifiably," said Douglas Rushkoff, a media theorist at City University of New York and author of the book “Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus.” He likened driverless cars to robotic incarnations of scabs — workers who refuse to join strikes or who take the place of those on strike.

“There’s a growing sense that the giant corporations honing driverless technologies do not have our best interests at heart,” Mr. Rushkoff said. “Just think about the humans inside these vehicles, who are essentially training the artificial intelligence that will replace them.”

The emergency drivers in the Waymo vans that were attacked in various cases told the Chandler police that the company preferred not to pursue prosecution of the assailants.

In some of their reports, police officers also said Waymo was often unwilling to provide video of the attacks. In one case, a Waymo employee told the police they would need a warrant to obtain video recorded by the company’s vehicles.

Officer William Johnson of the Chandler Police Department described in a June report how the driver of a Chrysler PT Cruiser wove between lanes of traffic while taunting a Waymo van.

A manager at Waymo showed video images of the incident to Officer Johnson but did not allow the police to keep them for a more thorough investigation. According to Officer Johnson’s report, the manager said that the company did not want to pursue the matter, emphasizing that Waymo was worried about disruptions of its testing in Chandler.

The battle between man and machine has begun.

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#2 Posted by Serraph105 (33159 posts) -

This will surely make them go away.

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#3 Edited by Horgen (119089 posts) -

As if I feel safer when people react like that to self driving cars.

Also: Off topic.

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#4 Posted by Horgen (119089 posts) -

@Damedius: I think this topic is better suited for normal off topic.

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#5 Posted by Serraph105 (33159 posts) -

@horgen said:

As if I feel safer when people react like that to self driving cars.

Also: Off topic.

Right? Aside from the fact that they will inevitably safer than current cars, the idea that people might randomly attack a car I'm riding in is scary.

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#6 Edited by jun_aka_pekto (24931 posts) -

Chandler is a short distance away from where that pedestrian/jaywalker was killed by the Uber self-driving car.

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#7 Posted by watercrack445 (1042 posts) -

When I first read this I thought it was a joke.

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#8 Posted by Byshop (19275 posts) -

@Damedius said:

The battle between man and machine has begun.

The level of idiocy here is astounding on a lot of levels. There's the basic element of "RAR!!! Attack anything that looks like progress!" like when people in the US shot traffic signs that were in metric. Beyond that, there's the aspect of deliberately doing dangerous things in traffic because you think that driverless cars are... dangerous? What? To the credit of the cars, it sounds like very few accidents have happened as a result of people trying to run them off the road.

But even besides all that, the silliest thing about these stories is that idea that somehow taking out their frustrations on the -cars- themselves would do anything. The cars really don't care.

@jun_aka_pekto said:

Chandler is a short distance away from where that pedestrian/jaywalker was killed by the Uber self-driving car.

Yeah, I was just in Tempe a couple weeks ago and saw a self-driving car. That accident is tragic, but I watched the dashcam video and the lady walked her bike in front of the car at speed. There was virtually no warning.

I have a level 2 or 3 (depending on who you ask) autonomous car and I use that feature pretty often. I look forward to the day that they release an update for my car that'll allow me to crawl into the backseat of my car and sleep one off while my car drives me home. Today, I still have to pay attention and be ready to take over. I'm a very attentive driver. I'm constantly tracking in my head how many cars are around me and where. I'm not only watching the cars but how they behave to try to predict if a car near me is going to do something dumb like change into my lane from too close. I watch driver's heads to see if they are distracted or looking at their phones. I don't think that the car drives better than I do, but I can acknowledge certain advantages an autonomous car has over any human driver. Never getting distracted. Never getting tired. Never getting impatient. Being able to see in literally all directions at once. It's very interesting technology and watching it evolve is something of great interest to me.

-Byshop

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#9 Posted by DEVILinIRON (4566 posts) -

I wonder if these cars will have the ability to be manually driven if chosen. Would a drunk person have the ability to take over? I can visualize that happening. On the other hand, maybe the car could require a possible driver to get their license scanned first. Oh, the possibilities. Will there even be licenses any more?

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#10 Posted by phbz (3943 posts) -

Were they using MAGA hats and wearing pelts?

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#11 Posted by Byshop (19275 posts) -

@DEVILinIRON said:

I wonder if these cars will have the ability to be manually driven if chosen. Would a drunk person have the ability to take over? I can visualize that happening. On the other hand, maybe the car could require a possible driver to get their license scanned first. Oh, the possibilities. Will there even be licenses any more?

There are multiple "levels" of self-driving classification. The highest would be Level 5, in which potentially having any human controls in the car may be completely optional.

-Byshop

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#12 Posted by mrbojangles25 (42738 posts) -

"Change! PROGRESS! KILL IT!"

I like how they cite that autonomous uber vehicle as an example when, as @Byshop pointed out, there really wasn't anything it or a human driver for that matter could do. Also denying the fact that human drivers on a daily basis do far more damage is sort of ignorant. Aren't "autopiloted" cars statistically safer than human piloted ones?

I am totally open to debate, non-frivolous lawsuits, and local government saying no because as with any untested technology there are unknowns and possible risks. But this response these people are doing? Totally the wrong way to go about doing things.

Honestly as soon as this tech becomes affordable and I need a new car, I am getting one. I love/hate driving, it's weird but honestly if I could flip a switch and have something take me home from a long day of work, man that'd be great.

I think it needs to become the standard, so we can have most of the cars on the road not only driving in a predictable fashion, but communicating to eachother too. Imagine a whole freeway of autonomous vehicles being able to drive 120 miles per hour safely because every single of the thousands of vehicles within a few miles knows exactly what every other car is doing, where it is going, and so forth.

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#13 Edited by madrocketeer (5981 posts) -

Talking apes predictably lashing out against their possible future superiors. After years of seeing the kind of shit people pull on the road, these things can't come soon enough. Humans should not be allowed to drive.

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#14 Posted by shellcase86 (4171 posts) -

Tragedy.

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#15 Posted by JustPlainLucas (78981 posts) -
@watercrack445 said:

When I first read this I thought it was a joke.

Yeah, I had to click on the link to read it myself. Thought it was satire. I mean... it reads EXACTLY like an Onion article right down to the drunk guy standing in front of the self-driving car yelling at it.

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#16 Posted by Master_Live (19251 posts) -

The emergency drivers in the Waymo vans that were attacked in various cases told the Chandler police that the company preferred not to pursue prosecution of the assailants.

And this is done probably for PR reasons but eventually you are going to have to prosecute this individuals.

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#17 Edited by jun_aka_pekto (24931 posts) -
@mrbojangles25 said:
I am totally open to debate, non-frivolous lawsuits, and local government saying no because as with any untested technology there are unknowns and possible risks. But this response these people are doing? Totally the wrong way to go about doing things.

That's the way they are around here. People have a tendency to mob offenders whether it's deserved or not.

I remember one time I was turning left on a stoplight with two lanes turning left. I was on the inner lane. But, a young coed veered into my lane and cut me off, causing me to slam the brakes. That caused a chain reaction of motorists behind me slamming their brakes too. The coed got back on the right lane and I sped off thinking, "Screw this sh*t!"

When I looked back, some of the motorists behind me had hemmed their vehicles around her car.....probably cussing her out.

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#18 Posted by Byshop (19275 posts) -

A robot company stages Tesla crash as a PR stunt, media buys it

Hahahahaha.

@madrocketeer said:

Talking apes predictably lashing out against their possible future superiors. After years of seeing the kind of shit people pull on the road, these things can't come soon enough. Humans should not be allowed to drive.

Yeah, like any progress, not just self-driving cars. There have been a couple articles about people acting like dicks and deliberately blocking EV charging stations with pickup trucks recently.

-Byshop