Chaotic Crowd Torches Waymo Robotaxi in San Francisco

Michael Vandi/Reuters
Michael Vandi/Reuters

A group of people in San Francisco’s Chinatown completely destroyed a Waymo driverless car on Saturday, smashing its windows before setting it on fire with a firework, authorities said.

The autonomous vehicle was targeted as revelers celebrated China’s Lunar New Year in the area. A witness to the incident told Reuters that one person jumped on the hood of the robotaxi and smashed its windshield as the chaotic situation started.

The Self-Driving Car Is an Idea That Badly Needs a Tune-Up

A second person jumped on the hood to applause from the crowd, the witness said. “That was when it went WILD,” they added, saying that people with skateboards smashed glass on the vehicle as others tagged the car with graffiti.

Both the San Francisco Fire Department and Waymo said someone threw a lit firework into the car, ultimately starting a fire which engulfed the vehicle in flames. “The vehicle was not transporting any riders and no injuries have been reported,” the company said, though no explanation was given as to what may have prompted the attack.

It’s not clear if the incident was related to public opposition to self-driving vehicles. Groups in both San Francisco and Phoenix, Arizona, have previously tried to disrupt the cars’ operations by climbing on their hoods or blocking their paths.

A cyclist was injured in San Francisco last week when they collided with a driverless Waymo car. The cyclist sustained only minor scratches and was able to leave the scene on their own, the company said. In October, a more serious incident occurred in which a pedestrian was hit by a car and knocked into the path of a self-driving General Motors Cruise vehicle. The woman was then dragged 20 feet by the robotaxi, but she survived the ordeal with injuries.

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