A Waymo robot taxi was vandalized and burned down in San Francisco

Photo credit: Kirsten Korosec

A Waymo robotaxi was vandalized and then set on fire by a crowd in San Francisco’s Chinatown district on Saturday evening. The incident is the latest encounter between self-driving vehicles and the public in San Francisco, a city where autonomous vehicle companies have spent years testing the technology on public streets.

The Saturday evening incident, which was captured on video and shared on social media channels, did not appear to be a coordinated effort. Instead, the video shows a crowd becoming increasingly angry and violent once the driverless vehicle is surrounded.

A Waymo spokesperson confirmed that there were no passengers in the driverless vehicle at the time. The company’s statement:

On Saturday, February 10, around 9 p.m., a fully autonomous Waymo vehicle was driving through San Francisco when a crowd surrounded and vandalized the vehicle, breaking the window and throwing fireworks into it, setting the vehicle on fire. The vehicle was carrying no passengers and no injuries were reported. We are working closely with local security authorities to respond to the situation.

This isn’t the first time San Francisco residents have taken on a self-driving vehicle. And it probably won’t be the last time.

Last summer, a decentralized group of safe streets activists in San Francisco disabled robotaxis across the city by placing a traffic cone on the hood of a vehicle.

The “Week of Cone,” as the group dubbed the viral prank on Twitter and TikTok, was a form of protest against the proliferation of robotaxi services in the city. The protest came ahead of a California Public Utilities Commission hearing where Cruise and Waymo received the final approval needed to commercially operate robotaxi services in San Francisco.

There were also videos showing people attacking cruise robotaxis. But with Cruise currently banned from operating in the city, Waymo is the only driverless robotaxi service — and the most visible symbol of autonomous technology in the city.


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Robert Wilson

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