- A Waymo robo-taxi was set on fire Saturday by a crowd in San Francisco.
- The motive is unclear, but mistrust toward driverless technology in the city is high.
- There have been multiple accidents since the city greenlighted expanding robo-taxi services.
A San Francisco crowd torched a Waymo robo-taxi 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,” a post on X by the San Francisco Fire Department said. It was reduced to an ashen shell.
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. #SFFD
Photos by Séraphine Hossenlopp pic.twitter.com/aOTqL3Rk8V
— SAN FRANCISCO FIRE DEPARTMENT MEDIA (@SFFDPIO) February 11, 2024
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.
Waymo spokesperson Sandy Karp confirmed the facts of the incident and told BI the company is “working closely with local safety officials to respond to the situation.”‘
The motive for the attack on the robo-car 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 in 2022 under various restrictions in San Francisco.
But it’s had teething problems — a Wired investigation in April gathered considerable dashcam footage showing Waymo vehicles cluttering 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, 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 the insurance company Swiss Re.