What in the actual hell is happening right now in San Francisco’s Chinatown? Why did a mob decide to screw around with a Waymo self-driving car and then set the poor Jaguar I-Pace electric car on fire? I talked with two witnesses and gathered some wild footage. Here’s what I know.
This is breaking news, so bear with me here, but what I have so far is this statement from Waymo about what went down tonight:
At approximately 9 PM on Saturday, February 10th, a fully autonomous Waymo vehicle was navigating on Jackson Street in San Francisco when a crowd surrounded and vandalized the vehicle, breaking the window and throwing a firework inside, which set the vehicle on fire. The vehicle was not transporting any riders and no injuries have been reported. We are working closely with local safety officials to respond to the situation.
Here’s some of the footage popping up on X, formerly known as Twitter. The wildest shots have been posted by Michael Vandi, a software engineer and founder of Addy AI (an AI email assistant), per his social media profile descriptions. Here is his rather shocking footage:
— Michael Vandi (@michael_vandi) February 11, 2024
When asked for a synopsis of what he saw, Vandi told me the following over Twitter:
So there were fireworks happening- pretty fun night and folks watching the fireworks. Every now and then traffic would build up and the crowd would make way for it to clear.
There was a small traffic holdup with waymo at the front of it. Then someone in a white hoodie jumped on the hood of the car and literally WWE styel K/O’d the windshield & broke it.
The crowd was shocked. People started paying attention and gathered around. Nothing happened for another 30 seconds until someone else jumped on the hood.
Then a group of people joined in affirming the behavior w/ positive feedback. Clapping etc.
That was when it went WILD. People with skateboards breaking the glass, and others graffitiing the car.
There were 2 groups of people. Folks who encourage it – and others who were just shocked & started filming. No one stood up – i mean there wasn’t anything you could do to stand up to dozens of people.
This went on for like 5 minutes. By this time, a pretty heavy traffic had built up behind the waymo and other cars started finding alternative alleyways to escape.
Then someone with fireworks initially lit it under the car -nothing happened but it was loud enough to disperse the crow including me who didn’t want to be near it anymore and you can see the 3rd and 4th videos were taken from 1/2 a block away zoomed in.
I’m not sure what happened next but it’s my understanding that fireworks was lit (now inside the car) then there was smoke for about 30 seconds before full on flames started.
Flames carried on for a bit say 3 – 4 minutes before SFFD pulled up.
I left the scene once I heard the SFFD sirens
Also someone shouted “light that shit on fire” that’s what prompted the fireworks i think. But i should point out – it took about 2 minutes from when the person said that before the car was set on fire
There’s also this video posted by @_nathanmarquez_:
— nathan (@_nathanmarquez_) February 11, 2024
But the most shocking footage in my eyes is that which shows the aftermath: A completely destroyed Jaguar I-Pace self-driving car — look at all that melted aluminum shown in this video, courtesy of FriscoLive415 (who also has a YouTube channel):
????????????Raw HD footage: @Waymo vehicle torched in Chinatown –> Holy moly we just got done clipping together this HD footage from tonight for y'all… hope you enjoy (warning: there's a horn for the first few seconds and you're gonna get wet!) #SplashZone https://t.co/5VeWvgPEhe pic.twitter.com/N4ZwIeGjAg
— FriscoLive415 (@friscolive415) February 11, 2024
Franky Francisco with FriscoLive415 shot the footage above; he broke down what he saw on Saturday night, writing me in a Twitter DM:
For the record, here’s what that car should look like — I took this photo just before I was driven around in a Waymo self-driving car; I loved the experience, as you can read here:
I’ve reached out to the local fire department to learn more beyond the organization’s post on Twitter:
Waymo Vehicle surrounded and then graffiti’d, windows were broken, and firework lit on fire inside the vehicle which ultimately caught the entire vehicle on fire. #SFFD
Photos by Séraphine Hossenlopp pic.twitter.com/aOTqL3Rk8V
— SAN FRANCISCO FIRE DEPARTMENT MEDIA (@SFFDPIO) February 11, 2024
The San Francisco Fire Department’s tweet states: “Waymo Vehicle surrounded and then graffiti’d, windows were broken, and firework lit on fire inside the vehicle which ultimately caught the entire vehicle on fire.”
It’s not clear who exactly attacked this Waymo in Chinatown on the Lunar New Year, or what their motivation was, but hopefully we’ll learn more before the weekend is over.
This story is breaking news and will be updated as more information arises.
Topshot: FriscoLive415/Twitter (screenshot)