Man Attacking Cruise AV Captured on Video

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

One of the autonomous test vehicles operated by Cruise in San Francisco has been attacked by a masked assailant wielding a hammer — signaling that the city’s relationship with AVs has only gotten more complicated.

Despite AVs having initially been welcomed into the city, residents have been issuing complaints to local officials who no longer seem interested in having self-driving mules running tests on public roads. Activists have likewise launched a campaign encouraging citizens to disable the vehicles by placing road cones on the hood. Even the San Francisco Fire Department has soured on AVs, citing dozens of occasions where units impeded its ability to respond to emergency calls by blocking traffic.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the city’s apparent eagerness to field the new technology is drying up. But there weren’t many reports about vehicles being outright vandalized until now. Instead, city officials have been pleading with state regulators and Governor Gavin Newsom to stop allowing the companies to expand operations and have provided a slew of examples where the units were involved in unsavory incidents. However, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) still voted 3-to-1 to allow Cruise and Waymo to expand operations last month and locals now seem to be taking matters into their own hands.

A video of the incident was shared by SFGATE and shows the activist/vandal going hog wild on a Cruise AV with a pick hammer at the intersection of Haight and Buchanan. While the windows were also bashed, the focus appeared to be on destroying the expensive sensing hardware placed atop the vehicle. But the gear turned out to be quite robust and does not appear to have taken much damage.

San Francisco Police Department Sergeant Kathryn Winters told the outlet that the event happened at around 11 p.m. Sunday, with the suspect fleeing long before police were able to respond.


The video, which Lower Haight resident Catery Villela told SFGATE she filmed from her dining room window, shows one of Cruise’s ubiquitous driverless cars standing still in the intersection of Haight Street and Buchanan Street. The front hood of the car appears to be spray-painted, and the masked person is seen repeatedly slamming a hammer into the car’s roof-mounted equipment. They move on to hitting the car's front window before whacking again at the gear on top of the car.
The car seemed to take the beating well; the front windshield cracked but didn’t break, and the sensor equipment atop the car appeared difficult for the person to destroy. At one point in the video, the assailant covered their eyes while flailing at the car. After a little over half a minute of recorded smashing, the person appeared to run off.

Navideh Forghani, a spokesperson for Cruise, has said the car was empty at the time.

“We are deeply troubled by the behavior displayed by the individual,” Forghani stated. “While there was no one in the vehicle at the time, our priority is to operate safely under all conditions. We have reported the incident to law enforcement and hope they are able to identify those responsible and hold them accountable.”

Whereas Waymo seemed to take the majority of its criticism for testing in Phoenix, Arizona, the anger directed toward Cruise is heavily localized to San Francisco. The company is on record as saying the negative media attention it’s been getting is overblown. But local authorities have specific examples where Cruise AVs have failed to negotiate public roads — resulting in blocked traffic, some collisions, a few animals being fatally struck, and one incident where the SFPD had to break into a vehicle so it wouldn’t drive through an emergency scene.

[Image: Cruise]

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Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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2 of 18 comments
  • G G on Sep 13, 2023

    Someone should talk gently to him with a hammer. So, we are that uneducated as a society that we think vandalism is funny, or the answer....hum, same people probly also think Kardashians are talented( butt injections are a talent?) Go figure.

  • Jpolicke Jpolicke on Sep 22, 2023

    There's never a loom around to smash when you need one.

  • Bd2 There's Telluride news you could be posting.
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  • Zerofoo “Can the sedan be saved?” Sure - just lift it a bit, add a mild all wheel drive system, and make the trunk a lift back. I don’t know a single middle-aged woman who doesn’t drive a CUV. Precisely none of them want to go back to a sedan. The sedan may not be die completely, but sedans will not replace CUV/SUVs any time in the foreseeable future.
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