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Waymo drivers coming under physical attack in Phoenix area

(Twitter Photo)

PHOENIX — Drivers in Waymo autonomous vehicles in Chandler have faced harassment, slashed tires, hurled rocks and even an angry man with a gun last year.

Det. Seth Tyler told KTAR News 92.3 FM in an email Wednesday that there had been at least 21 attacks on the self-driving vans since the program began in 2017.

A Waymo representative said in an email there had only been a handful of incidents that have merited reporting to Arizona police and those instances were “extremely rare.”

The New York Times reported that Chandler police said Waymo employees have dodged rocks, been threatened with a pipe and had knives pointed at them. A man with a small-caliber handgun confronted a van driver in August.

A police report said the 69-year-old man “stated that he despises and hates those cars (Waymo),” the paper said.

He also brought up the death of a pedestrian who was struck by a self-driving Uber vehicle in Tempe last March.

In that accident, the driver behind the wheel was distracted shortly before impact with a woman crossing a downtown street in the dark.

Waymo has not pressed charges in any of the cases, according to the article, and said its drivers have been directed to report criminal activity to police.

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

“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.”

The statement added the company reported incidents it felt posed a “danger” and had given law enforcement photos and videos of “these acts of vandalism or assault.” Company policy directed drivers to tell police if they felt unsafe in a situation.

A public transportation official in the Valley tweeted out his support for Waymo and autonomous driving in December after a media report of the acts of aggression against the vehicles.

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce also encouraged the project on social media.

Waymo’s driverless ride-hailing service made its public debut last month.

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