Waymo’s self-driving cars continue to fall victim to incidents involving harassment and physical damage more than four years after they first began circulating around Chandler’s streets.
Reports released by Chandler Police detail a variety of incidents that Waymo’s autonomous vehicles were involved in over the last 18 months, some of which highlight the reservations people still have about the emerging technology.
Waymo last year began piloting minivans without humans in the vehicles, although it also has technicians in others.
Over the last 18 months, local authorities have been called out to at least 20 incidents involving one of Waymo’s signature white minivans that use advanced sensors and cameras to navigate Chandler’s roadways. The events range widely from paranoid suspicions, to fender benders to hit-and-run crashes ending in a criminal arrest.
One of the most recent incidents involved a motorist accusing a Waymo car of slowing down without much warning.
On May 7, 2021, a motorist rear-ended a Waymo minivan on Ray Road after the autonomous car “locked its brakes” and the oncoming car was unable to avoid a collision, according to the police report.
Waymo claims its car only “braked lightly” as it was entering an intersection and alleges the other motorist was driving slightly faster than theirs.
A similar incident was reported last October after a Waymo vehicle stopped in the middle of Chandler Boulevard, resulting in a vehicle crashing into the autonomous vehicle. Both vehicles sustained minor damage and no injuries were reported.
The vehicle “was in autonomous mode and all of a sudden the vehicle began to stop and gave a code to the effect of ‘stop recommended’ and came to a sudden stop without warning,” a Waymo employee told Chandler Police.
In January 2020, a car struck a Waymo vehicle that stopped right before entering an intersection along Chandler Boulevard.
The Waymo technician told Chandler Police he saw the other car “coming up behind him and attempted to disengage the autonomous mode by pressing the accelerator but it did not disengage in time,” according to a police report.
Waymo says its vehicles are designed to slow down after they detect a potential issue on the roads and that any problems arising from these situations are a “rare occurrence.”
“Any vehicle involved in a collision is thoroughly assessed by our technical team to determine if there are any potential issues before being repaired and put back in service,” Waymo’s representatives wrote in a statement.
There have been several other incidents this past year in which Waymo vehicles were targets of erratic drivers or shady characters.
Last February, an unknown person hurled an ice cream cone at a moving Waymo car. A few days after this incident, another person was spotted throwing eggs at multiple Waymo vehicles.
Situations involving harassment have been a frequent occurrence ever since the company first introduced its cars on Chandler’s streets in 2017.
In the first couple years of Waymo’s presence in the East Valley, local law enforcement responded to several incidents involving residents throwing rocks or pointing weapons at the self-driving cars.
A Chandler man was arrested in 2018 for recklessly aiming his firearm at a Waymo vehicle.
Recent police reports suggest some Waymo vehicles continue to be targeted around the city by angry motorists.
On Oct. 31, 2020, a Waymo employee called Chandler Police after two motorcyclists followed him and blocked the autonomous car from being able to exit a parking lot.
The Waymo worker claims one of the drivers got off their motorcycle and started yelling and pointing at the self-driving car before it managed to drive around the two motorcycles.
On Dec. 29, 2020, an unknown pedestrian punched a Waymo vehicle near Dobson and Warner roads. A technician riding with the Waymo car alleged the man began yelling at the moving vehicle before knocking one of its side mirrors out of place.
In a couple instances in recent months, law enforcement had to reassure residents who felt intimidated by Waymo’s vehicles.
A cyclist expressed fear getting hit by a Waymo car vehicle didn’t seem to detect their presence while turning onto Rita Lane.
Last summer, one resident told Chandler Police he felt like a Waymo vehicle was stalking his family at a nearby park because it kept hovering around them. The company later explained that it had been testing its vehicles in the resident’s neighborhood and that several were moving in and out of the area, according to police reports.
The company’s vehicles have additionally been damaged in multiple hit-and-run accidents reported throughout Chandler.
Earlier this year, a Chevy Silverado sideswiped a Waymo vehicle on Price Road and continued driving without stopping. Another Waymo vehicle was hit by a Jeep Wrangler last September near Price and Ray roads and the other motorist kept driving.
In February 2020, a hit-and-run driver struck a Waymo vehicle on Price Road and was later apprehended by police. The suspect had allegedly been involved in several hit-and-run accidents across the Valley.