In the 18th-century workers were destroying machines that took their jobs. Now in the 21st century, people are attacking autonomous vehicles.
One of the negative effects of the industrial revolution at the end of the 18th century was the destruction of machines in factories by workers that were convinced that technology is taking their jobs. Now Waymo – a company that has the first taxi service that uses autonomous cars in Phoenix – is facing something similar.
Dllu CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons
Several incidents have taken place with an apparent goal to destroy the Waymo autonomous vehicles. And in some cases, even the passengers have been harassed. In the past two years over twenty cases have been registered by the police and many more could have gone unnoticed. The attacks included things like punctured or cut tires, rocks being thrown at the cars or situations when other drivers tried to push to autonomous cars out of the road. The operators who watch over the cars have been repeatedly verbally attacked and threatened. In one of the instances, a 69-year-old man even aimed his gun at the operator. Though we should mention that in this case, dementia this man suffers from might be the cause.
37-year-old Erik O’Polka even repeatedly pushed Waymo’s car out of the road. In one of the incidents involving him, he even drove straight against the autonomous car forcing it to stop in a dangerous fashion. To the police he said, “There are other places where they can conduct their tests.”
Now you might be asking yourself why something like this could be happening. There are two main probable reasons. The fear of safety on the roads and the fear of potentially losing jobs.
The first reason – safety – has suffered a lot when one of Uber’s autonomous vehicles hit a pedestrian in Tampa. In that incident, the operator wasn’t watching the road instead she was watching TV on her phone and because of the configuration of the vehicle, the emergency brake did not engage. But we should remind everyone that compared to human drivers autonomous cars have still more than good results.
The second reason – jobs – is likely affecting the incident because the taxi drivers are afraid that potential customers will rather use autonomous cars.