San Francisco, CA – Chaos erupted in San Francisco’s Chinatown on Saturday evening as a violent mob vandalized and set fire to a Waymo self-driving car. The disturbing incident, captured on social media, showed a man attacking the vehicle with a skateboard and a drink container before it became engulfed in flames, to the cheers of bystanders.
The San Francisco Fire Department reported that the car, owned by Google parent company Alphabet, was surrounded, vandalized, and ultimately set ablaze using a firework, causing the entire vehicle to catch fire. Photos shared by the fire department depicted the car in flames and later as a charred wreck, prompting severe concerns for public safety and property damage.
Police are currently conducting an investigation into the incident, with no arrests made as of Monday afternoon. The San Francisco Police Department confirmed that officers responded to the fire at around 8:50 p.m. local time, finding the unoccupied car engulfed in flames but fortunately with no reports of injuries.
This act of vandalism has particularly struck a nerve due to its occurrence on the day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, a significant and joyous occasion for many families and tourists partaking in related celebrations in the area. Aaron Peskin, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, condemned the incident as “terrible” and “extremely dangerous,” expressing worries about potential harm to people and property.
A spokesperson for Waymo revealed that the driverless car was moving along a street in Chinatown when it was surrounded by individuals who subsequently threw a firework inside, leading to the vehicle catching fire. The company emphasized that no riders were being transported, and no injuries were reported as a result of the incident.
While driverless cars have become increasingly common on the hilly streets of San Francisco, longstanding tensions between residents and these vehicles have persisted. However, the act of setting a driverless car on fire is an unprecedented and alarming development that has prompted further concerns about public safety and potential future acts of violence against autonomous vehicles.