People wielding knives and rocks have vandalised self-driving vehicles operated by Waymo, which is the driverless car company owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet in the US state of Arizona.

More than 20 incidents of vandalism on the self-driving cars have reportedly occurred since 2017, when Waymo arrived in Chandler, Arizona.

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, The New York Times reported late on Monday.

There have been reports of Waymo vans being pelted with rocks while several others have tried to run them off the road.

“The slashing was one of the 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 (AI), with city officials hearing complaints about everything from safety to possible job losses,” the report added.

The self-driving car company has said it was getting support from the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

In response to reports of ongoing incidents involving its autonomous vehicles, Waymo pointed to two things: its more than 25,000 miles logged per day, and what it characterised as “extremely rare” incidents escalated to police reports, according to the Gizmodo.

Road testing

A Toyota Prius modified to operate as a Google driverless car, navigating a test course

As of 2018, Waymo had tested its system in six states and 25 cities across the U.S over a span of more than 9 years. Among the first places Google began testing its self-driving cars in 2009 was San Francisco Bay Area. Google’s vehicles have traversed San Francisco’s Lombard Street, famed for its steep hairpin turns, and through city traffic. The vehicles have driven over the Golden Gate Bridge and around Lake Tahoe.The system drives at the speed limit it has stored on its maps and maintains its distance from other vehicles using its system of sensors. It has since expanded its areas of testing.

In August 2012, the team announced that they had completed over 300,000 autonomous-driving miles (500,000 km) accident-free, typically having about a dozen cars on the road at any given time. Four U.S. states had passed laws permitting autonomous cars as of December 2013: Nevada, Florida, California, and Michigan.A law proposed in Texas would establish criteria for allowing “autonomous motor vehicles”.

In April 2014, the team announced that their vehicles had logged nearly 700,000 autonomous miles (1.1 million km). In June 2015, the team announced that their vehicles had driven over 1,000,000 mi (1,600,000 km), stating that this was “the equivalent of 75 years of typical U.S. adult driving”, and that in the process they had encountered 200,000 stop signs, 600,000 traffic lights, and 180 million other vehicles. Google also announced its prototype vehicles were being road tested in Mountain View, California. During testing, the prototypes’ speed did not exceed 25 mph (40 km/h) and had safety drivers aboard the entire time. As a consequence, one of the vehicles was stopped by police for impeding traffic flow.

In 2015, Google expanded its road-testing to Texas, where regulations did not prohibit cars without pedals and a steering wheel. Bills were introduced by interested parties to similarly change the legislation in California.

Google took its first driverless ride on public roads in October 2015, when Mahan took a 10-minute solo ride around Austin in a Google “pod car” with no steering wheel or pedals. In 2016, the company expanded its road testing to the dry Phoenix, Arizona, area and Kirkland, Washington, which has a wet climate. In May 2016, the company opened a 53,000 square foot self-driving technology development center in Novi, Michigan. As of June 2016, Google had test driven their fleet of vehicles, in autonomous mode, a total of 1,725,911 mi (2,777,585 km). In August 2016 alone, their cars traveled a “total of 170,000 miles; of those, 126,000 miles were driven autonomously (i.e., the car was fully in control)”. Beginning of 2017, Waymo reported to California DMV a total of 636,868 miles covered by the fleet in autonomous mode, and the associated 124 disengagements, for the period from December 1, 2015 through November 30, 2016.

In November 2017, Waymo altered its Arizona testing by removing safety drivers in the driver position from their autonomous Chrysler Pacificas.The cars were geofenced within a 100 square miles surrounding Chandler, Arizona. Waymo’s early rider program members were the first to take rides using the new technology.

Waymo began testing its level 4 autonomous cars in Arizona for several reasons: good weather, simple roads, and the state not requiring that self-driving cars have any special permissions. Users hail vehicles through a Waymo app and an onboard support system can connect them to a Waymo agent at any time. In 2017, Waymo began weather testing in Michigan.Also in 2017, Waymo unveiled its test facility, Castle, on 91 acres in Central Valley, California. Castle, a former air base, has served as the project’s training course since 2012.

According to a Waymo report, as of March 2018 Waymo’s self-driving technology had driven more than 5 million miles on public roads and more than 5 billion miles via simulation.Waymo’s 25,000 virtual self-driving cars travel 8 million miles per day.By October 2018, Waymo had completed 10 million miles of driving on public roads and over 7 billion simulation miles.

In March 2018, Waymo announced its plans to build additional real-world self-driving experiments with the company’s self-driving trucks delivering for sister company Google’s data centers located in Atlanta, Georgia.

As of 12 September 2018, Waymo was waiting on permits to test the cars in California, hoping to test in Los Altos, Mountain View, Palo Alto, and Sunnyvale. On 30 October 2018, the California Department of Motor Vehicles issued a permit for Waymo to operate fully driverless cars (i.e., cars without a human safety drivers). Waymo was the first company to receive such a permit, which allows day and night testing on public roads and highways, in California. In a blog post, Waymo announced that its fully driverless cars would be restricted to Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, and Palo Alto — all communities close to parent company Alphabet’s headquarters.


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