Angry mob trashes and sets fire to Waymo self-driving car

San Franciscans turn on empty robotaxi without apparent motive

An angry mob has destroyed a Waymo self-driving taxi in San Francisco.

"Waymo Vehicle surrounded and then graffiti'd [sic], windows were broken, and firework lit on fire inside the vehicle which ultimately caught the entire vehicle on fire," reads a Xeet from the San Francisco Fire Department. Nobody was in the car at the time.

That account is consistent with footage of the event such as that below.

Youtube Video

It is not clear, however, why the mob decided to destroy the car, though it kicked off in the city's Chinatown district right where and when many folks were celebrating the Chinese New Year. With fireworks being set off all over the place, and excitement running high, the Waymo car appeared to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and was set upon when it showed up.

A Waymo vehicle recently hit a cyclist in the city. The rider walked away with scratches and Waymo claimed the accident occurred because the rider emerged from behind a large truck and its car could not react in time to avoid the collision once it detected the bike.

Footage of the incident does not suggest angry cyclists were enacting revenge.

Self-driving cars were a not uncommon sight on San Francisco's streets until the Cruise robotaxi business parked its entire fleet after SNAFUs including one in which a woman was hit and dragged for six metres (20 feet) under a driverless car, another robocar becoming stuck in wet cement and ten cars grinding to a halt after their wireless connections failed.

Waymo, the brand that adopted Google's autonomous car efforts, has also had its problems – but in early 2023 it celebrated one million miles of autonomous operations without a fatality. There have, however, been 20 "contact incidents" – half of which involved human drivers hitting Waymo cars.

Waymo car burned out in San Francisco. Image: Séraphine Hossenlopp via San Francisco Fire Department

The torched Waymo car in San Francisco's Chinatown ... Credit: Séraphine Hossenlopp via San Francisco Fire Department

Driverless Waymo cars continue to operate in San Francisco, giving people rides like any other taxi app service, though users must join via a waitlist.

This latest incident took place just eight blocks from The Register's San Francisco eyrie. As the conflagration occurred on a Saturday night, no vultures were in danger. ®

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