Report: Mob Attacks, Torches Waymo Robotaxi in San Francisco


An autonomous Waymo robotaxi was attacked and eventually set ablaze by crowds who had gathered in San Francisco to celebrate the first day of the Chinese New Year, according to a report from Reuters.

The driverless Jaguar I-Pace taxi, which drove in the direction of the crowded Jackson Steet and Grant Avenue crossing on Saturday, February 10, was quickly blocked in on all sides by people, who eventually started attacking the car. Eventually, someone in the mob set the robotaxi on fire.

The incident represents one limitation of exclusively software and sensor-driven vehicles. “Most normal drivers know that they have to avoid Chinatown during the Lunar New Year Holidays,” Aaron Peskin, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and vocal advocate for stricter regulation on self-driving cars, told Reuters. “The computer doesn’t understand that.”

waymo santa monica i-pace electric jaguar self driving autonomous
Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

San Francisco Mayor London Breed said that the incident in Chinatown was “a dangerous and destructive act of vandalism” and voiced her support for the city’s role as a testbed for self-driving tech. “We are a city that is home to exciting, emerging technologies, like autonomous vehicles, that are changing the world,” Breed told Reuters.

Others in the Bay Area aren’t as convinced. According to The San Francisco Standard, city officials, including the fire chief, have complained that the driverless cars have been known to impede the efforts of first responders trying to get to emergency scenes.

Self-Driving Cars san francisco
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Just the week prior, a Waymo vehicle struck a bicyclist in another part of the city. In October of 2023, a GM Cruise robotaxi made headlines when it hit and subsequently dragged a pedestrian 20 feet underneath the car. The incident was severe enough to prompt the state of California to suspend Cruise’s driverless vehicle testing license.

To some, the fiery episode marked a new high-water mark for what feels like a growing resentment towards driverless cars and other tech that relies on artificial intelligence.

“We are seeing people reaching a boiling point over tech that they do not want and does not make their lives better,” Missy Cummings, director of the George Mason University Autonomy and Robotics Center and a former adviser to U.S. traffic safety regulators, told Reuters.

Where it all goes from here is anybody’s guess, but the incident becomes yet another on a growing laundry list of episodes that show the shortfalls of current-day driverless technology. “What is becoming abundantly clear is that AV technology is not as sophisticated as the industry would like us to believe,” said California state Senator Dave Cortese.




Check out the Hagerty Media homepage so you don’t miss a single story, or better yet, bookmark it. To get our best stories delivered right to your inbox, subscribe to our newsletters.

Click below for more about
Read next Up next: Audi Reveals Huge Handling Upgrades for the S3


    “Most normal drivers know that they have to avoid Chinatown during the Lunar New Year Holidays,. The computer doesn’t understand that.”
    This was a Waymo Taxi meaning the intent is to carry paying passengers. How would you feel if you were foolish enough to get into one of these things and it drove into a rowdy crowd because the “intelligent car” was too stupid not to? Thankfully, there were no passengers injured or killed. And, why am I not angry about what happened? In fact, I admit I applaud it. Get these driverless cars off our public roads!

    The story said it all: “people are reaching a boiling point over (intrusive) tech that they do not want and does not make their lives better.” As a retired engineer, to me “A.I.” means ‘Artificial Ignorance’ in spite of the best efforts of today’s programmers. Maybe in another 100 years….or so?

    Well, if futuristic movies are any indicators, the “advance” of A.I., hi-tech, and robotics is not really boding well for us humans, now or ever. I’m in TG’s camp. While tech has made a few things easier for us, on whole, I think we would be better off limiting it to things that require a human “operator”, so that Humint is always in control and within reach of the kill switch.

    My disdain for driverless cars and EVs would not drive me to lawlessness. Society is on the breakdown here in the US.

    I applaud the crowd’s action. These driverless abominations need to be derailed and destroyed. Before they kill more innocent people. And shame on the mayor of San Francisco for kowtowing to the tech robber barons, instead of being concerned for the safety of the citizens who elected her.

    I’m confused on what words result in a “moderation review”. The process is disturbing when stories about violence are reported which can have a direct correlation with a political view believe it or not. Can we get a list of “action words” that trigger a review so we can avoid them? Sometimes the truth hurts – I think we’re all adults here.

    The number of comments indicating indifference or support of lawlessness is troubling.
    Lithium Ion batteries in these vehicles, a super fire problem, right? This situation could
    have turned far uglier.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *