Crowd sets Waymo self-driving car on fire in San Francisco

A crowd of people vandalized a Waymo self-driving car on the streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown on Saturday evening, with one man lighting it on fire, the city’s Fire Department said.

Video of the incident shows a man stop the passenger-less car in the street and bash it with a skateboard. Soon, a crowd forms around the car kicking it and drawing graffiti on its sides. Eventually, one man lights a firework inside, causing a fire that burned the vehicle down.

It’s unclear if the vandalism is a random act of violence, concerted protest or pent-up rage over the driverless vehicles, which has long caused tension with city residents.

Nobody was reported injured in the blaze. Mayor London Breed (D) warned that the fire could have been much worse.

“Chinatown is one of the densest neighborhoods in San Francisco, and any fire could explode and spread among tightly-packed buildings to endanger lives, homes and businesses,” she said in a statement Monday.

Witness Michael Vandi told The Washington Post that passersby near the Waymo car were celebrating Lunar New Year with fireworks.

“That was when it went WILD,” he told The Post. “There were 2 groups of people. Folks who encourage it – and others who were just shocked & started filming. No one stood up – i mean there wasn’t anything you could do to stand up to dozens of people.”

Driverless vehicles are common in San Francisco, where multiple startup companies have tested their taxi-like products on its residents. The inundation with cars has sparked anger with some San Franciscans, with the vehicles often blocking traffic and being unable to handle detours or emergency situations. 

The vehicles have also raised safety concerns, especially after a Cruise vehicle ran over and dragged a woman last year. The accident sparked the California Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend Cruise’s operations, with the company halting all of its driverless vehicle operations nationwide days later.

A Waymo vehicle also struck a cyclist last week in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, resulting in minor injuries, the Verge reported. The Waymo passenger was unhurt, and the cyclist left the scene on their own.

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