A self-driving robotaxi has been set alight in San Francisco amid increasing tensions between the local community and autonomous vehicles.

    On Saturday night, a Jaguar I-Pace electric vehicle (EV) being operated as a driverless robotaxi by Waymo stopped in San Francisco’s Chinatown district.

    It was soon descended upon by irate bystanders, some of whom were allegedly in the area to celebrate Lunar New Year.

    A shocking video uploaded to YouTube by NBC Bay Area shows multiple people attempting to smash the robotaxi’s windows, which was followed by fireworks being lit and thrown inside the I-Pace’s interior.

    In the moments after, a fire started, with the Jaguar subsequently suffering terminal damage – though it appears its battery did not burn, which would have resulted in an even more dangerous and hotter blaze.

    Speaking to Reuters, police said they were investigating the cause of the fire but didn’t comment on whether any arrests had been made.

    The incident is the latest in a long line of San Francisco residents protesting against autonomous vehicles.

    Vehicles from both Waymo – which is owned by Alphabet, the parent company of Google – and General Motors-owned Cruise have been vandalised.

    Some have been graffitied and others have had their sensors damaged. Some residents have also put traffic cones on their sensors which, while not damaging the vehicle, effectively immobilises it.

    In May 2023, a Waymo robotaxi struck and killed a dog while driving around San Francisco, with the company claiming the vehicle didn’t have enough time to avoid the impact.

    Cruise has indefinitely suspended its operations in the wake of a hit-and-run impact which led to a pedestrian being dragged down the road by one of its robotaxis.

    Jordan Mulach

    Born and raised in Canberra, Jordan has worked as a full-time automotive journalist since 2021, being one of the most-published automotive news writers in Australia before joining CarExpert in 2024.

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