Man Held in Attempt to Steal Waymo Self-Driving Vehicle in Downtown LA

The self-driving car company recently gained approval to operate more widely in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.
Man Held in Attempt to Steal Waymo Self-Driving Vehicle in Downtown LA
A Waymo autonomous vehicle on Market Street in San Francisco on Nov. 17, 2023. (Jason Henry/AFP via Getty Images)
Rudy Blalock

A Los Angeles man was arrested Sunday after a failed attempt to steal a self-driving taxi downtown, despite receiving repeated warnings to stop, according to a news release by police.

Vincent Maurice Jones, 33, was arrested during the early morning hours of March 3, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He was released the same day and is expected to return to court March 28.

According to the Los Angeles Police Department, Mr. Jones was dropped off by a white Jaguar car on Main Street, north of 1st Street, around 10:30 p.m., where he then entered one of Waymo’s autonomous vehicle rideshare cars and tried to override the controls.

“Jones attempted to put the vehicle in drive but could not manipulate the controls,” police said in the news release.

Mr. Jones ignored a Waymo representative who spoke to him through the car’s communication system, warning him to exit, before notifying police. An officer from LAPD’s Central Division responded and arrested Mr. Jones for attempted grand theft auto, according to the news release.

A subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet, Waymo operates in San Francisco at all hours of the day, from Lands End to Bernal Heights, according to its website. It began offering free rides for a limited time in portions of Los Angeles County, including Santa Monica, Century City, West Hollywood, and downtown Los Angeles. Angelenos can join the waitlist for a free ride by visiting the company’s website or attending a pop-up event.

While Angelenos are still waitlisted, full service could be expected soon. The Department of Motor Vehicles and the California Public Utilities Commission have recently approved Waymo’s deployment of vehicles in the San Francisco Peninsula and Los Angeles, including additional areas downtown.

A spokesperson for the company said timelines for the new operations aren’t available.

“As always, we’ll take a careful and incremental approach to expansion by continuing to work closely with city officials, local communities and our partners to ensure we’re offering a service that’s safe, accessible and valuable to our riders,” they said.

Waymo has provided 15,000 rides to Angelenos during the trial period, the spokesperson said.

Las month, one of Waymo’s driverless vehicles was attacked by a mob and destroyed in the Chinatown neighborhood of San Francisco, with fireworks lit inside and graffiti tagged on the vehicle, before the vehicle caught fire.

Leaders in Los Angeles County and San Mateo County—also known as the peninsula—have voiced concerns regarding the company’s growth in their region, protesting that the company had limited discussion with city and county officials about its expansion plans. Officials from the utilities commission in response said complaints, specifically from San Mateo County, didn’t meet certain criteria to delay their decision, saying “the submissions do not state proper grounds for protest.”

Rudy Blalock is a Southern California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. Originally from Michigan, he moved to California in 2017, and the sunshine and ocean have kept him here since. In his free time, he may be found underwater scuba diving, on top of a mountain hiking or snowboarding—or at home meditating, which helps fuel his active lifestyle.
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