Furious Crowd Destroys Robotaxi, Sets It on Fire

Getting Lit

The battle between San Franciscans and robotaxis is heating up.

As the San Francisco Standard reports, a driverless taxi operated by the company Waymo was set ablaze on Saturday night in the city's Chinatown after a crowd spontaneously surrounded it and basically obliterated it.

It's unclear how the incident began, but as video shared by the Standard shows, the crowd that descended upon it first began rocking and slamming the car and then managed to break its windows. It was after the windows were busted open that fireworks were thrown inside of it.


While the episode was obviously quite dangerous, representatives from Waymo told the newspaper that at very least, nobody was in the vehicle during the attack.

As SFPD supervisor Aaron Peskin police told the local paper, the incident coincided with Lunar New Year, which drew crowds of  "thousands and thousands" of people to Chinatown.

"On the street, it was so crowded we couldn’t get through," Peskin told the paper. "How that led to graffiti and stomping on an autonomous vehicle — and arson — I don’t know."

Public Headache

While there's no suggestion or indication that this was a premeditated attack, massive public distaste for robotaxis operated by Waymo and its competitor, GM's Cruise, could well have played a part.

For years now, Waymo's robotaxis and those operated by its rival, GM's Cruise, have been crowding San Francisco's streets — and making themselves into a public nuisance.

As several videos and reports indicate, the robotaxis' propensity for glitching out and either stopping in the middle of the street — sometimes en masse — or driving where they're not supposed to make them annoying and dangerous. Last year, one of Waymo's self-driving lifts ran over someone's dog, and another found itself in the middle of an active fire scene.

Things at Cruise are even worse, and with government reports indicating that the company's robotaxis have hit an untold number of people, its parent company is now slashing its investment in the still-immature tech.

With such incidents and accidents piling up, many in SF have had enough. At the end of 2023, in fact, the city sued a state commission that allowed Cruise and Waymo to operate around the clock without safety drivers.

"As driverless [autonomous vehicle services] expanded in San Francisco, members of the public and city officials identified hundreds of safety incidents, including interference with first responders," the lawsuit, which was first reported by the Washington Post, reads. "Despite these serious safety incidents, and over the objections of San Francisco, the commission approved requests by Cruise and Waymo to operate."

With that kind of dedicated opposition, it's not all that surprising that Lunar New Year celebrants let off some steam on the robotaxi — though there probably are better ways to protest.

More on Californian nuisances: Tesla Drivers Say Autopilot Is Ruined Now