Video captures Google’s self-driving robotaxi being set on fire in SF Chinatown
An autonomous Waymo robotaxi was vandalized and reportedly set on fire by a crowd in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the Lunar New Year celebrations.
What happened: The driverless car found itself amid the festivities at the intersection of Jackson Street and Grant Avenue on Feb. 10, the first day of the Lunar New Year, reported Reuters. According to witnesses, the self-driving vehicle drove into the area as crowds were filling the streets and fireworks were being lit up. Shortly after, the car was attacked by some individuals in the crowd and ultimately set on fire.
A video uploaded by Reuters on YouTube shows several individuals smashing the windows of the car while onlookers use their mobile phones to film the incident. Later in the clip, the car is seen engulfed in flames.
Safety concerns: The vehicle, a Jaguar I-Pace crossover equipped with sensors and cameras, is owned by Google‘s parent company Alphabet. Such vehicles have become common in San Francisco, where some consider them safer than human drivers. However, critics have pointed out that human drivers would have avoided such areas during the holiday.
State Senator Dave Cortese (D, CA-15) underscored the technology’s limitations, saying, “What is becoming abundantly clear is that AV technology is not as sophisticated as the industry would like us to believe.”
Recent driverless accidents: The incident comes after recent accidents involving autonomous vehicles in San Francisco. Last week, a bicycle rider suffered minor scratches after being hit by another Waymo car at 17th Street and Mississippi Street. In October, a self-driving vehicle operated by GM-owned Cruise struck and dragged a pedestrian at 5th Street and Market Street, leading to the suspension of Cruise’s driverless testing license in California.
Investigations underway: The suspected arson is currently under investigation, although the San Francisco police have made no arrests as of this writing. San Francisco Mayor London Breed condemned the incident, labeling it a “dangerous and destructive act,” as per CBS News.
“Chinatown is one of the densest neighborhoods in San Francisco, and any fire could explode and spread among tightly packed buildings to endanger lives, homes and businesses,” she added.
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