A mob vandalized and set fire to a Waymo self-driving car using fireworks in San Francisco on Saturday, the company owned by Google parent Alphabet and authorities said, in the latest attack of its kind in the United States.
The incident began on Saturday night local time in the Chinatown district, when a crowd surrounded a white sports vehicle that was moving down the street, a company spokesperson said.
Videos posted on social media showed one person spray-painting the SUV and another using a skateboard to break one of the windows, while the surrounding crowd cheered. The images show the vehicle on fire with a huge cloud of black smoke in the air.
The fire department published photos of the charred remains of the car and said fireworks started the blaze.
“The vehicle was not carrying passengers and no injuries were reported. We worked closely with law enforcement to respond to the situation,” the company said. The cause of the attack was not reported. The San Francisco Police Department said it is investigating.
The incident was not the first time people have attacked self-driving cars, but its severity may illustrate growing public hostility following a crash last year involving a vehicle operated by General Motors GM.N’s Cruise unit that dragged a pedestrian.
On previous occasions in San Francisco and Phoenix, Arizona, groups have disrupted the operations of autonomous vehicles by blocking their path, trying to enter the vehicles and jumping on their hoods. Videos that went viral showed people placing orange traffic cones on top of vehicles to obstruct their sensors and force them to stop abruptly.
Last week, a Waymo self-driving car collided with a cyclist in San Francisco, causing minor injuries. The incident is being reviewed by the state’s auto regulator.
Waymo offers an autonomous transportation service in Phoenix and is working to expand the service to Los Angeles and Austin, in the US state of Texas.
Last October, a pedestrian struck by another vehicle was thrown in front of a Cruise autonomous vehicle and dragged 20 feet. California subsequently suspended the company’s autonomous vehicle testing license, and Cruise withdrew all of its U.S. autonomous vehicles from testing.
The most recent incident occurred during the Lunar New Year holidays and the day before the Super Bowl, the NFL championship, involving the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs.