A crowd set fire to a Waymo taxi in San Francisco, as tensions about driverless tech grow

a crowd set fire to a waymo taxi in san francisco, as tensions about driverless tech grow

A Waymo self-driving robotaxi is engulfed in flames in San Francisco on February 10, 2024. Michael Vandi/Reuters

  • A Waymo robotaxi was set on fire by a crowd in San Francisco on Saturday.
  • The motive is unclear, but mistrust toward driverless technology in the city is high.
  • There have been multiple accidents since the city green-lit expanding robotaxi services.

A San Francisco crowd torched a Waymo robotaxi on Saturday night, the local fire department said, amid ongoing mistrust of driverless technology in the city.

The vehicle was “surrounded and then graffiti’d, windows were broken, and firework lit on fire inside the vehicle,” which reduced the vehicle to an ashen shell, according to a post on X by the San Francisco Fire Department.

Footage shared by an onlooker, Michael Vandi, on X shows a crowd surrounding the vehicle during Lunar New Year celebrations in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

One member of the crowd can be heard shouting “Light that shit on fire!”

Videos from local news outlets, also shared on X, show the remains of the vehicle as firefighters douse it in water.

There were no people in the vehicle, and nobody was injured, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing police.

The fire is being investigated, the outlet said.

The motive for the attack on the robocar is unclear, but autonomous car companies have come under heightened scrutiny since the technology has spread in San Francisco’s streets.

Waymo began trialing driverless taxis under various restrictions in San Francisco in 2022.

But it’s had teething problems — a Wired investigation in April last year gathered considerable dashcam footage showing Waymo vehicles cluttering up roads and blocking public transport vehicles.

In May, police were flummoxed by a Waymo taxi that drove into the scene of a fire and almost ran over a fire hose.

Nonetheless, driverless taxi companies were given the green light in August to launch expanded services in the city.

The move unleashed chaos on the roads almost immediately.

Cruise, majority owned by General Motors, quickly halved its fleet after a spate of accidents and traffic jams, and by October — after a woman was pinned under one of its cars — the city had revoked its permits.

Waymo, which is owned by Alphabet, has said that its autonomous vehicles are “significantly” safer than those driven by humans, pointing to a 2023 study based on data it shared with insurance company Swissre.

Waymo did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on this latest incident, sent outside business hours.

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