crowd vandalised and set fire to a Waymo self-driving car in San Francisco, escalating the situation significantly.
crowd vandalised and set fire to a Waymo self-driving car in San Francisco, escalating the situation significantly.

Crowd Vandalizes and Sets Fire to Waymo Self-Driving Car in San Francisco

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A crowd vandalized and set fire to a Waymo self-driving car in San Francisco on Saturday, marking a significant escalation in hostility toward autonomous vehicles in the United States. 

The incident in the city’s Chinatown district involved individuals celebrating China’s Lunar New Year by setting off fireworks. 

Eyewitnesses described a chaotic scene as individuals jumped onto the vehicle’s hood, breaking its windshield and vandalizing the car with graffiti.

Witnesses Describe Chaotic Scene of Vandalism and Arson:

Michael Vandi, a witness who captured videos of the incident, recounted the chaos that unfolded as individuals vandalized the Waymo vehicle. Vandi reported seeing people with skateboards breaking the car’s windows while others cheered in approval. 

The situation escalated rapidly, culminating in the vehicle being engulfed in flames after someone threw a firework inside. The San Francisco Fire Department confirmed that fireworks ignited the blaze.

Waymo and Authorities Respond to the Attack:

Waymo, the Alphabet-owned company behind the self-driving car, confirmed the incident and stated that no riders were inside the vehicle at the time of the attack, and no injuries were reported. 

The company is collaborating with local authorities to investigate the incident further. The San Francisco Police Department is also leading an investigation but has not yet announced any arrests related to the attack.

Incident Highlights Growing Public Hostility Toward Self-Driving Cars:

The attack’s severity underscores a growing public hostility toward self-driving vehicles, particularly in urban areas like San Francisco. 

Previous instances of harassment against autonomous cars have occurred in various cities, including attempts to block their path, disrupt their operations, and even physically damage vehicles. 

The incident comes amid ongoing concerns about the safety and acceptance of autonomous technology following high-profile accidents involving self-driving vehicles.

Waymo’s Response and Future Plans:

Despite the incident, Waymo reassured the public that it will continue to serve riders during the Super Bowl festivities. 

The company emphasized that the attack was an isolated event and expressed its commitment to ensuring the safety and security of its autonomous vehicles. 

Waymo’s driverless ride-hailing service is operational in Phoenix and is expanding to other cities, although incidents like these may pose challenges to its widespread adoption.

Regulatory Review and Industry Impact:

The incident occurred as regulatory authorities reviewed autonomous vehicle companies’ safety protocols and operations. 

Last year’s pedestrian-dragging accident involving a General Motors Cruise vehicle led to California’s suspension of driverless testing licenses and prompted industry-wide scrutiny. 

Despite advancements in self-driving technology, incidents like these highlight the ongoing challenges and public perception issues facing the autonomous vehicle industry.

Joshua Skate

Joshua Skate is a prominent contributor at Insider Los Angeles, known for his vibrant storytelling and deep dive into the city's culture, trends, and hidden gems. His pieces bring to life the unique spirit and diversity of Los Angeles, making him a go-to source for all things LA.

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