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Crowd sets Waymo self-driving vehicle ablaze in San Francisco

Published Feb 11, 2024 02:30PM ET Updated Feb 11, 2024 06:36PM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. A Waymo self-driving robotaxi, owned by Alphabet's autonomous driving unit, is engulfed in flames after the San Francisco Fire Department said in a statement on social media that fireworks were thrown inside the vehicle, in San Francisco, California Febru 2/2
 
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By Hyunjoo Jin, Mariana Sandoval and Abhirup Roy

(Reuters) - A crowd vandalized and set fire to a Waymo self-driving car using a firework in San Francisco on Saturday, the Alphabet-owned company and authorities said, marking the most destructive attack so far on driverless vehicles in the U.S.

On Saturday night, a crowd surrounded a white sport utility vehicle that was moving along a street in the city's Chinatown district, a company spokesperson said.

Michael Vandi, a witness who posted videos of the incident, told Reuters that people were celebrating China's Lunar New Year by setting off fireworks. A person jumped onto the hood of the Waymo vehicle and broke its windshield. Another person also jumped on the hood 30 seconds later as some in the crowd clapped in approval, he told Reuters in an X direct message.

"That was when it went WILD," he wrote, describing people with skateboards breaking the glass and others graffitiing the car. "There were 2 groups of people. Folks who encourage it - and others who were just shocked & started filming. No one stood up - i mean there wasn’t anything you could do to stand up to dozens of people."

His video showed the vehicle engulfed in flames with a huge plume of black smoke.

Waymo said someone threw a firework inside, which set the vehicle on fire. The fire department posted pictures on social media of the charred remains of the car and said a firework started the blaze.

"The vehicle was not transporting any riders and no injuries have been reported. We are working closely with local safety officials to respond to the situation," the company said. It did not say what caused the attack.

The San Francisco Police Department said it was investigating the cause of the fire and did not say whether arrests have been made. The electric car, a Jaguar I-PACE, is equipped with 29 cameras and other sensors.

The latest incident came a day before the Super Bowl NFL championship involving the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs.

"This was a one-off event," the Waymo spokesperson told Reuters, adding it will "continue serving riders during today’s festivities."

The incident was not the first time people have harassed self-driving cars, but its severity may illustrate growing public hostility following a pedestrian-dragging accident last year involving a vehicle operated by General Motors (NYSE:GM)' Cruise unit.

On previous occasions in San Francisco and Phoenix, Arizona, groups have disrupted the operations of self-driving vehicles, blocking their path, trying to enter the vehicles and jumping on their hoods. Videos that went viral showed people putting orange traffic cones on top of the vehicles to obstruct their sensors and force them to stop abruptly.

Last week, a driverless Waymo car collided with a cyclist in San Francisco, causing minor injuries. The incident is being reviewed by the state's auto regulator.

Waymo offers driverless ride-hailing service in Phoenix and is working to expand the service to Los Angeles and Austin, Texas.

On Oct. 2, 2023, a pedestrian hit by another vehicle was thrown into the path of a self-driving Cruise vehicle and dragged 20 feet (6 meters). California subsequently suspended the company's driverless testing license, and Cruise pulled all its U.S. self-driving vehicles from testing.

Completely driverless test vehicles, mostly from Cruise and Waymo fleets, traveled nearly 3.3 million miles (5.3 million km) in California last year.

(This story has been refiled to correct Twitter to X in paragraph 3)

Crowd sets Waymo self-driving vehicle ablaze in San Francisco
 

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Comments (10)
Joe Blewit
Joe Blewit Feb 12, 2024 11:04AM ET
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Democrats love a good celebration!
Rob Roy
Rob Roy Feb 12, 2024 6:38AM ET
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Yea, let's keep driving horses. People were afraid of the trains and the cars when they came to the World. Let's stay with the 12 hour working and always tired taxi and other drunk people behind the steering wheel.
tom kazz
tom kazz Feb 11, 2024 7:28PM ET
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Welcome to Joe Biden's America
Metl Mann
Metl Mann Feb 11, 2024 7:26PM ET
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Like all large scale transitions, the switch to driverless vehicles will be a long and messy one. Expect more of this and more deaths from these vehicles.
Mark Grube
Mark Grube Feb 11, 2024 7:07PM ET
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what city is this in. yeah. nuff said
Michael Davino
MichaelDavino Feb 11, 2024 7:07PM ET
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bwaaa ha ha ha ha
Mark Richard
Mark Richard Feb 11, 2024 6:32PM ET
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The dangerous ones are the people that think its ok to set a vehicle on fire on a public street.
Line Work
Line Work Feb 11, 2024 5:16PM ET
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Ned Ludd ain't dead after all!...
ZS Beck
ZS Beck Feb 11, 2024 4:37PM ET
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self-driving cars will put Uber and Lyft out of business.
Javier BB
Javier BB Feb 11, 2024 4:25PM ET
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Yeah self driving cars such a danger not like all other vehicles which NEVER cause any injuries
Otis Grant
Otis Grant Feb 11, 2024 4:25PM ET
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Not as dangerous as people apparently
Mangalavati Citra
Mangalavati Citra Feb 11, 2024 3:48PM ET
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Crazy idea to have self driving cars. Pedestrians should be more protected and should not be put at such risk. .
Mark Jannetty
Mark Jannetty Feb 11, 2024 3:48PM ET
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have you seen the way people drive? I would rather all self driving
 
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