Autonomous vehicles have become a fairly hot topic of discussion in recent years, and the fleet of cars Waymo is using to hone its technology on the streets of San Francisco has suffered a loss courtesy of an angry mob that set one on fire.
Tesla has managed to attract plenty of attention for the so-called “autopilot” feature that still leaves a fair amount to be desired thanks to multiple accidents that have unfolded involving vehicles that had it engaged, and Waymo (which is owned and operated by Google’s parent company) has also spent years attempting to perfect the art of the self-driving car.
Waymo initially began to use San Francisco as a proving ground when it began conducting tests in 2009, and that city (along with Phoenix) is currently home to around 250 robotaxis attempting to usher in the future by picking up and dropping off passengers without the assistance of a human driver.
However, residents are understandably a bit wary of the technology thanks to some incidents that have unfolded. In 2023, Waymo competitor Cruise caused a traffic jam thanks to close to a dozen cars simply stopped working on a Friday night a few months after a dog was struck and killed by an autonomous Waymo vehicle.
Earlier this month, a cyclist was also struck by a self-driving Waymo car, and while they were able to walk away with minor injuries, the incident once again raised concerns about the potential dangers they pose.
It’s safe to say some of those tensions boiled over based on what unfolded in San Francisco’s Chinatown on Saturday night, as Gizmodo reports a Waymo vehicle that made its way through a Lunar New Year gathering was stopped by a group of people before things took a violent turn.
The outlet spoke with an eyewitness who said someone jumped onto the hood of the car before breaking the windshield, which led to other bystanders attacking it with skateboards and spraying it with graffiti. The situation escalated even further when someone threw a firework through one of the windows, which led to the SUV being engulfed in flames.
— Michael Vandi (@michael_vandi) February 11, 2024
No humans were harmed thanks to what unfolded, but the same obviously can’t be said about the vehicle.