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Waymo robotaxi attacked and set on fire in San Francisco

A Waymo self-driving car was set upon by vandals in San Francisco on Saturday evening.

According to footage and eyewitness reports of the incident, the attackers graffitied the car before smashing its windows and throwing fireworks inside. The vehicle then caught fire and burned before fire crews arrived to extinguish the blaze.

No passengers were in the Waymo vehicle when it was set upon, and no bystanders are thought to have been hurt in the incident.

The fire department posted pictures of the remains of the autonomous Jaguar I-Pace car, adding that a firework started the blaze:

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


It’s not currently clear if a particular occurrence prompted the crowd to attack the car, or if the incident was preplanned in any way.

Waymo told Digital Trends that it was “working with local safety officials,” adding that it would continue to operate its autonomous ridesharing service in the city.

The company owned by Google parent Alphabet has been testing its autonomous cars on the streets of San Francisco for many years and more recently received permission to start charging passengers as part of a ridesharing trial service.

Saturday’s incident comes a week after a self-driving Waymo vehicle collided with a bicycle in San Francisco, causing minor injuries to the cyclist.

It also follows a more serious incident in early October when an autonomous car operated by General Motors-backed Cruise came to a halt on top of a pedestrian just moments after she’d been hit by a human-driven vehicle.

California suspended Cruise’s permit to test autonomous cars in the city, which led to the company suspending its testing nationwide.

Reports of occasional attacks on Waymo cars go back years, with vandals slashing their tires or throwing rocks at them. Road safety and job losses caused by a move toward autonomous systems are thought to have been behind some of the attacks, though it’s worth repeating that it’s not clear what prompted Saturday’s attack.

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