San Francisco’s Chinatown was hit by an episode of extreme vandalism, marking a new chapter in the already strained relations between the city and automated vehicle companies. An individual jumped on the hood of a Waymo driverless taxi, shattering its windshield, which was followed by a crowd forming around the vehicle, covering it in spray paint, breaking the windows, and finally setting it on fire. Despite timely intervention from firefighters, the car was completely engulfed in flames by the time they arrived.
The motives behind this act of vandalism remain unclear. However, Waymo representative Sandy Karp confirmed that the fully autonomous car was not carrying passengers at the time of the attack and that fireworks were thrown into the car, sparking the flames. Thankfully, no injuries were reported. The incident is a symbol of growing tension between San Francisco residents and operators of autonomous vehicles, particularly in light of other accidents and episodes of chaos involving autonomous taxis.
City officials and some residents have opposed 24/7 operation of autonomous vehicles due to concerns about safety and privacy. They have used symbolic gestures such as placing orange cones on the hoods of vehicles to highlight their resistance to imposition of this technology. This incident fits into a broader context of challenges faced by technology companies in deploying devices in public spaces such as destruction of shared bicycles to episodes violence against electric vehicles and scooters.
In conclusion, this incident serves as a reminder that there is ongoing debate around safety and appropriateness of autonomous vehicle services in urban life. Technology companies face challenges when deploying these devices in public spaces due to resistance from certain communities and residents who are concerned about privacy and safety concerns