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What just happened? A mob attacked and destroyed a self-driving Waymo robotaxi over the weekend, with no clear motive behind the incident. The vehicle, which was empty at the time, had its windows smashed, was set on fire and covered in graffiti as the crowd cheered.
The attack took place at approximately 9 pm on Saturday, February 10th. The Waymo vehicle was navigating Jackson Street in Chinatown when it was surrounded by people.
According to The Autopian, there was a small traffic holdup with the Waymo vehicle at the front. Someone then decided to jump on its hood and smash the windshield, prompting another person to jump on the hood.
Things escalated from this point; a skateboard and other objects were used to break other windows, people started covering the car in graffiti, and lit fireworks were thrown inside, setting the Jaguar I-Pace on fire.
Exactly why the crowd decided to destroy the Waymo vehicle is unclear, though there has been growing resentment toward robotaxis from San Francisco residents for a long time. Back in July last year, the activist group Safe Street Rebel started a protest against driverless Waymo and Cruise vehicles in the city that involved placing traffic cones on their hoods to disable them.
Self-driving vehicles have been responsible for several incidents in San Francisco, including blocking traffic, crashing into a bus, and even running over a dog. Tensions were raised last summer after the California Public Utilities Commission gave its approval for autonomous vehicle companies to expand robotaxis' hours of operation to 24/7 while charging for rides.
The most serious incident happened last October: a pedestrian was struck by a human-driven car, hurling her in front of a Cruise driverless taxi that ran her over and stopped with its rear tire still on her leg. The vehicle attempted a pullover maneuver after it stopped while the pedestrian was still under the wheels, dragging her another 20 feet. The accident led to Cruise's permit to operate robotaxis in California being suspended, the company halting its operations nationwide, the CEO resigning, and a quarter of all staff being laid off.