Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024
Crowd sets self-driving taxi on fire in San Francisco

A violent incident occurred in San Francisco’s Chinatown last night, marking a new chapter in the tense relationship between the city and automated vehicle companies. At approximately 9pm local time, an individual jumped onto the hood of a Waymo driverless taxi and shattered its windshield. The act was met with spontaneous applause from those present before quickly escalating into a crowd forming around the vehicle, covering it in spray paint, breaking windows and setting it on fire. Despite the timely intervention of firefighters who arrived a few minutes later, the flames had already engulfed the car completely.

The causes behind this act of vandalism remain unclear at this time. Sandy Karp, a representative for Waymo, stated that the fully autonomous car was “not carrying passengers” at the time of attack. San Francisco Police Department public information officer Robert Rueca confirmed that law enforcement responded “at approximately 8:50 p.m. to find the car already in flames.” There were no reports of injuries.

A video posted by YouTube channel FriscoLive415 shows the charred wreckage of Waymo’s electric Jaguar taxi, a symbol of growing tension between San Francisco residents and operators of automated vehicles. The suspension of operations of rival robotaxi Cruise by the California Department of Motor Vehicles following an accident in which one of its vehicles hit and dragged a pedestrian last year and previous episodes where these vehicles caused chaos by blocking traffic or colliding with fire engines fuel this debate on safety and appropriateness of these services in urban life.

The opposition to 24/7 operation of these cars from city officials and some residents is evident through symbolic gestures such as placing orange cones on top of vehicles’ hoods. This incident fits into a broader context of challenges that technology companies face when deploying their devices in public space; historical precedents include destruction shared bicycles to episodes violence against electric vehicles scooters are not unfamiliar territory for these companies as they navigate their role within our cities.

By Editor

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