A night of destruction has unfolded in San Francisco’s Chinatown as an individual targeted a Waymo driverless taxi, sparking outrage and vandalism. Around 9pm (local time) yesterday, the assailant jumped onto the hood of the car and shattered its windshield before a crowd formed around it, covering it in spray paint and breaking the windows. The car was eventually set on fire, despite the timely intervention of firefighters.
The motive behind this act of vandalism is unclear at this time. Sandy Karp, a representative for Waymo, stated that the fully autonomous car was not carrying passengers at the time of the attack and that fireworks were thrown into it, causing it to catch fire. San Francisco Police Department public information officer Robert Rueca confirmed that law enforcement responded promptly to find the car already ablaze, with no reports of injuries.
A video posted by YouTube channel FriscoLive415 shows the charred wreckage of Waymo’s electric Jaguar taxi, symbolizing growing tension between San Francisco residents and operators of automated vehicles. The suspension of operations of rival robotaxi Cruise by the California Department of Motor Vehicles following an accident in which one of its vehicles hit and dragged a pedestrian last year highlights community resistance to these services due to concerns about their safety and appropriateness in urban life.
The opposition to 24/7 operation of these cars also extends beyond regulatory action, with some residents placing orange cones on the hoods of vehicles as a symbolic gesture against their imposition. This incident fits into a broader context of challenges that technology companies face when deploying their devices in public space, including historical precedents such as the destruction of shared bicycles and episodes of violence against electric vehicles and scooters.