Autonomous driving companies such as General Motors’ Cruise and Alphabet’s Waymo have been under increased scrutiny since a Cruise AV unit unintentionally trapped and dragged a pedestrian underneath itself back in October 2023. Up to this point, the backlash has largely been regulatory, with numerous investigations and suspensions. Now, a Waymo AV unit was attacked in San Francisco and set on fire.
According to a report from Reuters and captured in photos taken by Séraphine Hossenlopp, a crowd used a firework to set a Waymo robotaxi alight. Occurring during a celebration of China’s Lunar New Year, one individual jumped onto the hood of the AV unit and smashed its windshield, with another person following suit 30 seconds later.
“There were 2 groups of people,” one bystander described. “Folks who encourage it – and others who were just shocked and started filming. No one stood up – I mean there wasn’t anything you could do to stand up to dozens of people.”
The San Francisco Police Department is currently investigation the cause of the fire, and did not make any mention of potential arrests. As for the vehicle itself, the all-electric Jaguar I-PACE was equipped with 29 cameras and sensors.
— Michael Vandi (@michael_vandi) February 11, 2024
Of course, this isn’t the first time people have been seen harassing autonomous driving vehicles, but it certainly stands as the most violent to date. As of the time of this writing, the exact motive behind the attack has yet to be detailed.
“This was a one-off event,” a Waymo spoksperson claimed. “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.”
It’s worth noting that a Waymo robotaxi collided with a cyclist just last week, inflicting minor injuries.