Driverless Cars Are Being Bullied

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For years, the scientific community has struggled to establish clear answers to questions relating to the ethics of driverless cars, with dilemmas of conscience being bandied about for an unconscious actor. For example, would a driverless car swerve off a cliff to avoid a pedestrian, killing the vehicle’s occupant in the process? Does the car owe its occupant some sort of loyalty to protect him or her above others?

I don’t have the answers to these questions, though I do have one humble request for autonomous vehicle technology, and that’s to, please, treat us better than we treat you. Even though we don’t deserve it.

People have long complained that driverless cars in test mode are annoyingly slow and prone to repetitive stops. But CBS has reported that Waymo’s driverless cars being tested in Arizona are actually becoming targets of road rage, with people chasing them, throwing rocks at them, and even slashing tires.

The program, which equips the vehicles with human workers for backup, has reported 21 incidents of aggression over the last two years.

The question is, is this a normal amount of road rage when considering a fleet of 600 vehicles that spend more time on the road than the average car? I mean, it’s possible that any one vehicle on the road is likely to have its tires slashed every ... you know ... 50,000 miles or so.

But there’s another theory, and it’s that public curiosity — mixed, perhaps, with resistance to change — is causing people to lash out. Backing up this theory is an incident that was reported by the Arizona Republic, in which a “heavily intoxicated” man blocked a Waymo van, saying he was “sick and tired” of the self-driving vehicles.

Now there’s an example of someone who is out there really making a difference.

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