Waymo Pulls Self-Driving Cars in San Francisco In Preparation For Potential Civil Unrest

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Waymo self-driving car with driver in San Francisco, in November 2018. | usage worldwide Photo by: Frank Duenzl/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Waymo, the self-driving company of Alphabet, has pulled its self-driving vehicles in San Francisco Monday night as businesses brace for potential civil unrest following the presidential election. 

The self-driving company, which is owned by Google’s parent company, transferred all its San Francisco vehicles to Mountain View in preparation for potential violent protests amid the U.S. election. According to a company spokeswoman, Waymo will continue its operations in Chandler, Arizona where it also operates a ride-hailing service, The Verge reported. 

Waymo will pay safety drivers in San Francisco who are affected by the suspension of operations. Additionally, its fleet of self-driving vehicles in Mountain View will undergo testing on public roads. 

“Your safety is our number one priority, and we will continue to monitor the situation closely,” the spokeswoman said. 

“Out of an abundance of caution and with the safety of our team in mind, we are temporarily suspending driving operations in San Francisco on 11/3 and 11/4,” she added. 

This is not the first time that Waymo has grounded 600 vehicles. In March, the company was forced to suspend its vehicle testing operation due to the novel coronavirus. The company resumed its testing in the Bay Area late-May amid a surge of COVID-19 cases in the state of California. 

Waymo is not the only company that has stepped up security measures in anticipation of violent protests and looting. 

In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot that she may shut down transit service in the city if authorities deem it necessary, The Mercury News reported. 

“If there’s a reason for us to take those extreme measures, I’m not going to hesitate to do that,” Lightfoot said.

Cruise, the self-driving arm of GM, also revealed plans to ground its fleet in San Francisco and take extra measures to protect its team members. The company has declined to share more details. 

In Portland, residents will be prohibited from starting a bike-share or scooter-sharing trip in areas where there has been protest activities in the last few months. Authorities would also begin to remove bikes and scooters from an area downtown. 

In Washington, Capital Bikeshare will also pause its bike-share operations near the White House until 4 am Thursday. Officials have also installed an eight-foot fence around the White House. 

In Seattle, scooter and bike-sharing companies have collaborated with the transportation department to be ready to remove their vehicles if the situation calls for it. 

Spin, a Ford-owned scooter company, will continue its services. However, the company will also prepare for instances of violence. 

The changes come as the U.S. prepares for a great potential for unrest amid a tense and emotional Election Day. 

On Wednesday, protesters had gathered in cities, such as Washington, Denver, and Los Angeles, which led to scattered arrests. Before Election Day, over a dozen states have activated the National Guard while retailers and businesses boarded up their windows. Many anxious Americans also purchased body armor and guns in anticipation of violence, Bloomberg reported. 

“Stand Up Michigan to Unlock Michigan,” a Facebook group, put out a call to action on Wednesday. According to its post, volunteers can go to Detroit’s TCF Center to challenge the election results being tallied there. The post also claimed that hundreds of left-wing challengers were already at the site. 

The protesters were blocked by police at the front door but managed to enter the premises through an unguarded rear door. In the polling site, they chanted “Stop the count!”

Protect the Results, a left-leaning group, also revealed plans to hold more than a hundred protests to “defend the integrity of the elections.” They are expected to hold virtual and in-person demonstrations in New York, Washington, and Los Angeles. 

Danielle Joyce Ong

Danielle is a local journalist with a passion for exploring stories related to crime and politics. When Danielle isn't busy writing or reading, she is usually exploring the great outdoors and all the hiking trails in the Bay.