February 29, 2024
A Waymo self-driving robotaxi, owned by Alphabet’s autonomous driving unit, is engulfed in flames after the San Francisco Hearth Division stated in an announcement on social media that fireworks had been thrown contained in the automobile, in San Francisco, California February 10, 2024 in a nonetheless picture from video. Courtesy of Michael Vandi/ through REUTERS Credit score: through REUTERS

A crowd vandalized and set fireplace to a Waymo self-driving automotive utilizing a firework in San Francisco on Saturday, the Alphabet-owned firm and authorities stated, marking essentially the most damaging assault to date on driverless autos within the U.S.

On Saturday evening, a crowd surrounded a white sport utility automobile that was transferring alongside a road within the metropolis’s Chinatown district, an organization spokesperson stated.

Michael Vandi, a witness who posted movies of the incident, informed Reuters that folks had been celebrating China’s Lunar New Yr by setting off fireworks. An individual jumped onto the hood of the Waymo automobile and broke its windshield. One other individual additionally jumped on the hood 30 seconds later as some within the crowd clapped in approval, he informed Reuters in an X direct message. 

“That was when it went WILD,” he wrote, describing individuals with skateboards breaking the glass and others graffitiing the automotive. “There have been 2 teams of individuals. Of us who encourage it – and others who had been simply shocked & began filming. Nobody stood up – i imply there wasn’t something you would do to face as much as dozens of individuals.” 

His video confirmed the automobile engulfed in flames with an enormous plume of black smoke.

Waymo stated somebody threw a firework inside, which set the automobile on fireplace. The fireplace division posted footage on social media of the charred stays of the automotive and stated a firework began the blaze. 

“The automobile was not transporting any riders and no accidents have been reported. We’re working carefully with native security officers to answer the state of affairs,” the corporate stated. It didn’t say what prompted the assault. 

The San Francisco Police Division stated it was investigating the reason for the hearth and didn’t say whether or not arrests have been made. The electrical automotive, a Jaguar I-PACE, is provided with 29 cameras and different sensors. 

The newest incident got here a day earlier than the Tremendous Bowl NFL championship involving the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs.

“This was a one-off occasion,” the Waymo spokesperson informed Reuters, including it’ll “proceed serving riders throughout right now’s festivities.”

The incident was not the primary time individuals have harassed self-driving automobiles, however its severity might illustrate rising public hostility following a pedestrian-dragging accident final 12 months involving a automobile operated by Basic Motors’ Cruise unit. 

On earlier events in San Francisco and Phoenix, Arizona, teams have disrupted the operations of self-driving autos, blocking their path, attempting to enter the autos and leaping on their hoods. Movies that went viral confirmed individuals placing orange site visitors cones on high of the autos to impede their sensors and pressure them to cease abruptly.

Final week, a driverless Waymo automotive collided with a bicycle owner in San Francisco, inflicting minor accidents. The incident is being reviewed by the state’s auto regulator.

Waymo presents driverless ride-hailing service in Phoenix and is working to broaden the service to Los Angeles and Austin, Texas. 

On Oct. 2, 2023, a pedestrian hit by one other automobile was thrown into the trail of a self-driving Cruise automobile and dragged 20 ft (6 meters). California subsequently suspended the corporate’s driverless testing license, and Cruise pulled all its U.S. self-driving autos from testing. 

Utterly driverless take a look at autos, largely from Cruise and Waymo fleets, traveled almost 3.3 million miles (5.3 million km) in California final 12 months.