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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Waymo vehicle set ablaze in San Francisco amid rising concerns over robotaxis

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Google’s Waymo has come under fire amid growing concerns about self-driving robotaxis following a series of accidents. According to local media, including the San Francisco Chronicle, a group of individuals set a Waymo vehicle on fire in San Francisco’s Chinatown on the night of February 10.

At 9 p.m., Chinatown was alive with fireworks to celebrate the Lunar New Year. A Waymo car, traveling through the area, was stopped by a car in front of it and became surrounded by people. One individual climbed onto the front bonnet, starting to break the windshield. Onlookers clapped and watched as another person on a skateboard also climbed atop the car, smashing a window.

A burning Waymo in San Francisco’s Chinatown on February 10. [REUTERS]

Minutes later, the Waymo burst into flames, emitting black smoke. “Someone threw a flame inside the vehicle, causing it to catch fire,” the company stated. Firefighters were summoned, and the fire was extinguished.

Fortunately, there were no passengers in the vehicle at the time, so no injuries were reported. Police are investigating the cause of the fire but have not made any arrests. The reason behind the arson remains unclear.

The incident reflects a growing public backlash against robotaxis after a series of accidents involving General Motors (GM) subsidiary Cruise last year, as analyzed by local media.

The state of California had authorized Waymo and Cruise to operate driverless robotaxis in San Francisco in August last year. However, the permits were revoked after a Cruise vehicle crashed into a responding fire truck, seriously injuring a woman at a downtown intersection. On February 6, a Waymo car collided with a bicyclist who was trailing a truck at a four-way intersection, having failed to detect the cyclist.

BY JIYOUNG LEE  [lee.jiyoung2@joongang.co.kr]