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California vandals light self-driving taxi on fire

By AFP

February 12, 2024 01:21 PM


Representational image

A self-driving taxi was smashed and lit aflame on the streets of San Francisco over the weekend, company representatives said Sunday.

The autonomous vehicle from tech firm Waymo, owned by Google parent company Alphabet, was targeted by a group of people apparently carrying fireworks from ongoing Lunar New Year celebrations.

No one was in the car and there were no reported injuries from the Saturday night incident, Waymo said.

"A crowd surrounded and vandalized the vehicle, breaking the window and throwing a firework inside, which set the vehicle on fire," a Waymo spokesperson told AFP.

"The vehicle was not transporting any riders," the spokesperson added. "We are working closely with local safety officials to respond to the situation."

Images posted on social media showed the white Jaguar stopped in a crowded street in San Francisco's Chinatown, where celebrations were ongoing.

Several people dressed in black are shown breaking the windows, including one using a skateboard.

Other videos show the vehicle with its windows broken and fireworks exploding inside, before it catches fire and shoots out a massive plume of smoke.

After the fire goes out, the car appears largely destroyed.

San Francisco has been the main testing ground for gradual piloting of autonomous vehicles in the United States, though they've sometimes been the target of vandals and also raised safety concerns.

A few days before Saturday night's incident, a cyclist was injured after being hit by a Waymo car, local media reported.

Cruise, another autonomous vehicle company and owned by automotive giant General Motors, indefinitely suspended its activities at the end of October after several accidents sparked a crackdown by California regulators.

Tesla's "autopilot" feature has also come under scrutiny, facing accusations the marketing of the feature has oversold its actual abilities.

"Autopilot" was involved in 736 accidents and 17 deaths since 2019, according to a Washington Post report analyzing data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a regulator.


AFP


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