A few years ago autonomous vehicles (AV’s) were being hailed as a technology that was transformative and coming very soon. Driverless vehicles provide a solution to the pesky problem of what to do with seniors who should not be driving, and suggested an orderly way to keep vehicles moving efficiently in cities. But the downside has started to become evident, including how to deal with the ethics of a car created to save its occupants ahead of more vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists. And what to do and who to blame if an autonomous vehicle kills a vulnerable road user? While the technology has apparently driven a vehicle across the United States, it has not advanced enough to deal with the intricacies and complexities of city driving.
Chandler Arizona was one of the “lucky” places where autonomous vehicle trials by Google’s Waymo first commenced, but there have now been over twenty attacks on these vehicles. From tire slashing, stone throwing, to braking in front of these vehicles and trying to run them off the road, local citizens are expressing their doubts and fears about the technology. I have written about the “edge cases” and how the killing of a lady in Tempe Arizona walking her bike across a highway exemplifies the situations where the technology could not ascertain the vehicle needed to stop.
The New York Times calls the vandalism towards autonomous vehicles as moving “ 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.”
And in Arizona, “DISE” ~Do It Someplace Else” has become a cause. One 37-year-old driver has repeatedly tried to drive Waymo vans off the road, even driving towards one head on to force it stop. Another person said 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.”
And that may be the crux of the issue, where big business behind the creation of autonomous vehicle technology may not be developing it for altruistic reasons.
“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.”
Here is a YouTube video on the attacks, as well as a response from a Waymo spokesperson.