A Waymo self-driving car was set ablaze by a crowd this week in San Francisco, marking a significant escalation in public hostility towards autonomous vehicles.
The autonomous Jaguar I-Pace was targeted around 9 p.m. local time when an individual from a crowd shattered a window and threw a firework inside, igniting the car. This particular attack took place after the vehicle was reportedly stopped by a street performance, drawing the crowd’s attention.
Footage from the scene posted on social media showcased the severity of the vandalism, with the car pummeled by cans and a skateboard before being set on fire.
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— SAN FRANCISCO FIRE DEPARTMENT MEDIA (@SFFDPIO) February 11, 2024
Photos by Séraphine Hossenlopp pic.twitter.com/aOTqL3Rk8V
The incident occurred amidst a backdrop of increasing scrutiny over the safety of autonomous vehicles, including a recent collision involving a Waymo vehicle and a cyclist resulting in minor injuries.
Another more severe incident occurred last year where a pedestrian was dragged by a Cruise vehicle after being hit by another car. This incident had led to Cruise’s license being revoked by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and the company undergoing significant organizational changes. Cruise has since paused its driverless operations nationwide, recalled all 950 of its vehicles, and laid off nearly a quarter of its workforce.
The incident has also resulted in an investigation by the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission.