Driverless cars are the gift that keeps on giving. That is if by ‘gift’ we mean problem after problem. Waymo employees are reportedly finding hypodermic needles in the company’s autonomous vehicles…
Back in 2018 Google-owned Waymo launched Waymo One; an Uber-like rideshare service. The difference was the vehicles involved would be autonomous, relying on driverless technology. By December 2019, it had upped the ante by offering rides in its vehicles without an on-board human safety driver. But what would otherwise be a technological leap has been mired by a rather sordid discovery. People are doing drugs in the vehicles and leaving their needles behind.
As you might expect, Waymo employees aren’t best pleased by the trend. They claim they’ve been forced to clear the needles without proper training and that, ultimately, the company isn’t doing enough to protect them. One insider told the Verge that “I know a lot of the times [the workers are] just told to pick it up and clean it out and go on with their day when, you know, that’s a needle“.
However, a Waymo spokesperson brushed off the allegation. They said the company was, “only aware of a few incidents where needles were found in cars and that supervisors had been trained for those situations”. They also went on to suggest that the needless that had been discovered may have contained ‘harmless’ substances like insulin.
This isn’t the first time Waymo employees have been exposed to danger. Tests in Arizona have been met with pronounced hostility from locals. Some have aggressively driven around the autonomous vehicles and others have attempted to ram or obstruct them. Rocks have been thrown and one man even pointed a gun at a Waymo operator. Employees have claimed that no training protocols or literature have been offered in dealing with these situations, something the company denies.
Sharing Driverless Cars
Whilst the experiences of Waymo employees are concerning, the discovery of needles in driverless cars raises its own problems. Companies like Waymo, Uber and Tesla are working towards vast fleets of driverless taxis being rolled out in major towns and cities. Why? Because eliminating the need for drivers eliminates a major source of expense in the form of their wages. However, this does essentially mean that the interiors of these vehicles are, potentially, unmonitored. This presents the opportunity for questionable characters to use them in improper ways.
Think about the state of public toilets in many of Britain’s urban centres. They’re not exactly pleasant, are they? Well, driverless cars are at risk of going the way of public toilets; potentially becoming a refuge for illegal and questionable behaviours. A recent BMW advert emphasised the amorous potential offered by driverless cars. It seems to have overlooked the fact that people probably won’t like the idea of riding in a vehicle recently used by a couple lost in the moment. They certainly won’t want to be sat next to (or worse, on) a hypodermic needle.
Questions Of Privacy And Safety
The reality is that driverless cars, circulating all day and night in heavily populated areas, will be used by questionable characters; offering them an impersonal space in which to do as they please, with little thought of who might be using the vehicle next. The only way around this, conceivably, is extensive monitoring within the vehicle itself and regular check-ups by a team of human cleaners and inspectors. The former will raise enormous privacy concerns and the latter will be costly; eliminating the purpose, perhaps, of removing drivers from the equation.
Making a car driverless means making it drive as well as, or better than, a human. That’s extraordinarily difficult, as legacy automakers and tech companies alike have discovered. But making them safe and pleasant to ride in may be just as big of a challenge…
Driverless Cars: Hackers Will Be Able To Gridlock Entire Cities – https://autoserve.co.uk/motoring-news/driverless-cars-hackers-gridlock-cities/
Would You Use A Driverless Car? – https://www.autoserveclub.co.uk/blog/would-you-use-a-driverless-car/
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