A report (paywalled) from The Information outlines concerns from Chandler, Ariz., residents about Waymo's self-driving tests in the area.
The colorful reactions are familiar to anyone who has suffered even the slightest bit of road rage while stopped behind a confused driver at an intersection, except in this case motorists can be especially irate while stuck behind a robotic driver.
Even industry leaders are sometimes surprised by the deficiencies of self-driving technology. For example, when Cox Automotive President Sandy Schwartz tried an autonomous vehicle about a year ago, he was ready for "a wild ride, out on the street, no one behind the wheel," he said. But the experience was much different from what he had imagined. Not only was there an operator in the vehicle, but after Schwartz sat in the back of the car for 10 minutes, the operator said there was a computer glitch and they had to go back for another car. "It's something to remind you," Schwartz said. "These are still computers. As we think about autonomous vehicles, we have a long way to go. They are still computers that run cars."
One local investigative reporter in Chandler is skeptical of how widespread the Waymo complaints actually are, but self-driving technology is still in the testing phase and clearly has some kinks to work out.
In California, some of the reported accidents involving autonomous cars also stem from human frustration with the vehicles.
But here's the question: Does that make these ordinary people anti-technology Luddites?
Of course not. And these reports will do little to change the debate around automation and advancing technology. Just like George Clooney had the right to complain about his first Tesla, people complaining about stalled self-driving vans are an unremarkable development. Anyone who has ever banged a computer on the side or blown into a malfunctioning Nintendo 64 cartridge understands that, sometimes, our newfangled tech gives way to hair-pulling frustration when it doesn't work exactly right.
We'll surely see more of these human-robot scuffle stories as technology develops. But be cautious of overhyping everyday frustrations; it's just the human in us, after all.
— Shiraz Ahmed and Hannah Lutz