San Francisco Celebrations Descend Into Chaos As Driverless Car Set Ablaze

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A crowd of people in San Francisco’s Chinatown vandalized a self-driving Waymo car and set it ablaze during Lunar New Year celebrations, according to authorities and the company.

The incident occurred at around 9 p.m. on Saturday night on Jackson Street near Grant Avenue, The San Francisco Standard reported.

Chinatown is located in downtown San Francisco, which has been working in recent months to shed an image of decline amid rising crime, a drug crisis and rampant homelessness.

Videos posted on social media showed a crowd of people gathered around the robotaxi, drawing graffiti on it.

The footage shows that a person used a skateboard to repeatedly bash the front passenger window and the windshield of the Jaguar, causing the glass to shatter.

Someone then thew a lit firework inside the vehicle, setting it ablaze.

The vehicle was “surrounded and then graffiti’d, windows were broken, and firework lit on fire inside the vehicle, which ultimately caught the entire vehicle on fire,” the San Francisco Fire Department posted on X, formerly Twitter.

Other videos showed firefighters working to put out the blaze. Videos and photos after the blaze was extinguished show the vehicle was totally destroyed.

The vehicle was not transporting any passengers at the time of the incident and no injuries were reported, Waymo told The Standard.

“We are working closely with local safety officials to respond to the situation,” the autonomous driving technology company said.

It was not immediately clear what led the crowd to set upon the vehicle.

Newsweek has contacted the San Francisco Police Department, the San Francisco Fire Department and Waymo for further comment via email.

A street reporter who goes by @FriscoLive415 on X told The Autopian, a car-culture website, that they had been “in the area 10 mins before documenting the fireworks and lunar new year, but left and turned around to return when I heard the scanner traffic.”

They said: “When I arrived on scene, SFFD (San Francisco Fire Department) was already on scene hosing down the car with water and their chemical extinguishers. The battery appeared to be reigniting multiple times and was smoking like crazy. The live footage I did on X gives a decent idea to how I came on to scene, which was after the attack on the vehicle. The vehicle looked completely ‘decapitated’ and I have never seen a vehicle that damaged up close.”

A Waymo autonomous vehicle in San Francisco on November 17, 2023. A Waymo vehicle was vandalized and set ablaze in the city’s Chinatown on Saturday night.

Jason Henry/AFP via Getty Images

Saturday’s incident comes days after a cyclist was injured in a collision with a Waymo driverless vehicle.

Newsweek reported last year about how driverless taxis were being targeted by protesters amid concerns about safety.

“When an industry deploys powerful new technology, safety has to be the top priority. And unfortunately during this past year we’ve had too many reports that have called into question whether this technology is safe,” David Chiu, San Francisco city attorney, told Newsweek at the time.