Feb 12, 2024 14:25 UTC
  • Driverless taxi set ablaze in San Francisco’s Chinatown

A driverless Waymo vehicle in San Francisco, California, US, was set on fire and vandalized on Saturday by a crowd in the city’s Chinatown.

US media reported the Jaguar I-Pace electric vehicle (EV) became the target of vandalism and arson in one of the busy streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown.

Video footage uploaded to YouTube by NBC Bay Area reportedly showed people attempting to smash the robotaxi’s windows. Media reports citing eyewitnesses detailed the chaotic scene.

The incident started when an individual leaped onto the vehicle’s hood and broke the front windshield. Then, the aggression swiftly escalated as a mob allegedly congregated, further damaging the vehicle by breaking its windows and defacing it with spray paint, culminating in the car being set on fire.

Waymo, known for its driverless taxi service within the city, confirmed that the vehicle was unoccupied at the time of the incident, ensuring no passenger injuries.

The San Francisco Fire Department deployed to the scene, reported on social media that the vehicle was not only vandalized but also had fireworks ignited inside it, resulting in a fire that engulfed the entire car.

“Waymo Vehicle surrounded and then graffiti’d, windows were broken, and firework lit on fire inside the vehicle which ultimately caught the entire vehicle on fire,” the Department’s spokesperson said on the social media.

This incident is likely to add a new layer of concern regarding the integration of driverless cars in urban areas, sparking debates on security measures and public acceptance.

Vehicles from both Waymo – which is owned by Alphabet, the parent company of Google – and Cruise, which is owned by General Motors (GM) have been vandalized before with some being graffitied and others having their sensors damaged.

In some instances, traffic cones were placed on the EV’s sensors which, while not damaging the vehicle, effectively immobilized the car.

A Waymo robotaxi in May struck and killed a dog while driving around San Francisco. The Waymo Company claimed the electric vehicle didn’t have enough time to avoid the incident.

Cruise indefinitely suspended all of its driverless operations after a hit-and-run impact which led to a pedestrian being dragged down the road by one of its robotaxis, and other collisions led to investigations, a disagreement with state regulators, and a suspension of its licenses in California earlier this week.