Waymo’s Autonomous Cars And Drivers Are Being Attacked In Arizona

While autonomous vehicles are set to become part of the motoring landscape, many of people remain wary of the new technology, resulting in a series of disconcerting incidents involving Waymo’s self-driving prototypes in Arizona.

A comprehensive investigation from The New York Times has uncovered roughly two dozens attacks on Waymo’s test vehicles throughout the last two years.

While some of these attacks are rather docile, others aren’t. In fact, there have been attacks where rocks have been thrown at the vehicles, tires have been slashed and drivers have even tried to run them off the road. Police also assert that, in one instance, a man pulled alongside a Waymo vehicle and threatened the safety driver behind the wheel with a PVC pipe. In another, most serious, case, a man waved a .22-caliber gun at a Waymo employee in the driver’s seat.

When arrested, the man said he “despises” driverless cars while referring to the tragic death of a pedestrian hit by one of Uber’s autonomous test vehicles in March 2018.

Arizona resident Erik O’Polka has a particularly strong disdain for Waymo’s vehicles and was issued a warning by the police after multiple reports that he tried to run Waymo prototypes off the road with his Jeep Wrangler. O’Polka’s wife, Elizabeth, admitted to The New York Times that she, too, “may have forced them to pull over” in the past before yelling at the safety drivers to leave their neighborhood.

Media theorist Douglas Rushkoff from City University of New York says it is no surprise that many Arizonans are displeased with driverless vehicles testing through local streets.

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

In a statement issued to the media, Waymo spokeswoman Alexis Georgeson said that the company hasn’t tried to persecute offenders and that, for the most part, locals have happily welcomed the vehicles.

“Safety is the core of everything we do, which means that keeping our drivers, our riders, and the public safe is our top priority.

“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,” she said.

more photos...
  • erly5

    Who has actually asked for driver-less cars? I feel they are being foisted upon us whether we like it or not. I for one am not looking forward to sharing the roads with these vehicles. They are the answer to a question no-one has asked and with any luck it will be many years before they are allowed to go live.

    • E Gold

      Amen to that! Who wants these things? Hmm, let’s see – The unscrupulous UBER clowns, and the Goliath Google. One controls how we get around. The other controls everything else. They simply want to monetize EVERYTHING and control how we move about in every way.

      • Jason Panamera

        I am moved. I hope they won’t charge me for that.

        • TRB0T0Y

          Well you clicked on this site, thus bringing in more ad revenues. They’ll get you one way or another. But they sure won’t get to my parking space before I do.

    • Mr Mister

      I can’t wait for driverless cars, for two reasons. It’ll enable free time during commuting which is miserable and not enjoyable driving. And it will help deal with the glut of poor drivers, many of whom already are busy with other things during their commute. And that last one is the question you didn’t think was asked. We’ve done just about everything we can to make driving safer, but accidents, injury, and death persist to be problems. The most common problem now are the drivers themselves.

      Er, they’re already live. In Phoenix, Waymo’s taxi service is running. And there’s hundreds (think actually thousands at this point), driverless cars on the road.

      Nothing wrong if you still want to drive, but there’s value in autonomous vehicles even for car enthusiasts.

    • Stephen G

      Did you complain about being “forced” to own a car? Why not just get a horse or walk. The road doesn’t belong to you and you have to share it and be a law abiding citizen like everybody else does.

      • E Gold

        The road doesn’t belong to me? Riiight, they’re not paid by my taxes and the taxes of our fellow motorists. They’re paved with pixie dust and the work of magic angels.
        I have no problem sharing the road with other motorists. But UBER is by no means a ‘law abiding’ entity. Admittedly I don’t have any interactions with Google’s operation.

    • NMo

      I can think of quite a few population segments that have asked this question:
      – the millions of people killed by avoidable crashes (or their surviving families)
      – disabled people (blind or otherwise)
      – people who don’t like driving (this is petrolhead site, but not everyone in the world looks foward to getting behind a wheel)
      – people who do enjoy driving, but need to endure boring/long commutes
      – designated driver situations
      – commercial and freight hauling, leadtimes are hindered due to continuous working hours limitations on humans
      – countries/cities with pervasive traffic situations which will only get more crowded and will need a more efficient transport infrastructure
      I work in supply chain/logistics and there are many technologies I would agree, but to say there is no benefit in self-driving cars, and to say that no-one is asking for them is preposterous.

  • kachuks

    There’s no point in attacking an autonomous car because it can’t feel threatened. You’re attacking it only because there’s a safety driver in the “autonomous” car.

  • Jason Miller

    I live in Arizona. See them all the time when I go to Phoenix. I have no issue with them and they’re never in the way or doing anything stupid. Crazies just being crazies.

  • Paul

    I guess this means people aren’t quite ready for this hairbrained idea.

  • Jason Panamera

    Maybe they just don’t like Chrysler brand there ? Or just Chrysler Pacifica isn’t helping people being more pacificist.

  • BlackPegasus

    Taxi drivers attacked and harassed Uber drivers too once the impact of ride-share was felt. Look where it got them.

    Let them eat cake. Fully autonomous cars are in our near future.


  • Blade t

    Funny, I live in AZ and I see the waymo vans all the time in certain areas. I’ve never heard about this story before ,and haven’t seen anything on the local news. 2 dozen incidents in a 2 year time frame ,isn’t much.

2020 Jeep Wrangler EcoDiesel Arrives Stateside, Though Only In Unlimited Guise

According to Jeep, the 2020 EcoDiesel is the torquiest, most fuel-efficient Wrangler to date.

2020 Cadillac CT5 Fails To Stand Out, But That Doesn’t Make It A Bad Choice

Cadillac’s new CT5 offers a balanced package among compact premium sedans, but it’s not a contender for the first spot.

2020 Genesis GV80: First Look At Profile And Digital Instrument Panel

The GV80 will have an upscale interior with premium leather, wood trim and metallic accents.

New 2020 Skoda Octavia Vs. Predecessor: What’s Different?

The Skoda Octavia is now more modern, practical, comfortable and fuel efficient than ever.

2020 Volvo S90 Facelift – If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

The mid-life update of the Volvo S90 flagship will include a lot of new tech.

We’re Driving A Suzuki Jimny, What Do You Want To Know?

The Suzuki Jimny is loved around the world, is it as good as everyone says?.

The Pedestrian Steering Horn Is A Wonderful Idea For A Dystopian Future

Why talk to people when you can simply honk? Enter the ‘Pedestrian Horn’.

2025 Ford Mustang Electric Study Envisions Muscle Car Of The Near Future

Hypothetical renderings give us an idea of what an all-electric Ford Mustang could look like.

Alex Albon Retains His Seat In Red Bull Racing For 2020

The Thai-British Formula 1 driver will continue to race alongside Max Verstappen at Red Bull next year.

BMW, Geely Approached By Tata In Search For Jaguar Land Rover Partners

Tata is reportedly in early talks with the two car makers and could still approach other companies.