The autoignition of an axisymmetric nitrogen-diluted hydrogen plume in a turbulent coflowing stream of high-temperature air was investigated in a laboratory-scale set-up using three-dimensional numerical simulations with detailed chemistry and transport. The plume was formed by releasing the fuel from an injector with bulk velocity equal to that of the surrounding air coflow. In the ‘random spots’ regime, autoignition appeared randomly in space and time in the form of scattered localized spots from which post-ignition flamelets propagated outwards in the presence of strong advection. Autoignition spots were found to occur at a favourable mixture fraction close to the most reactive mixture fraction calculated a priori from considerations of homogeneous mixtures based on inert mixing of the fuel and oxidizer streams. The value of the favourable mixture fraction evolved in the domain subject to the effect of the scalar dissipation rate. The hydroperoxyl radical appeared as a precursor to the build-up of the radical pool and the ensuing thermal runaway at the autoignition spots. Subsequently, flamelets propagated in all directions with complex dynamics, without anchoring or forming a continuous flame sheet. These observations, as well as the frequency of and scatter in appearance of the spots, are in good agreement with experiments in a similar set-up. In agreement with experimental observations, an increase in turbulence intensity resulted in a downstream shift of autoignition. An attempt is made to understand the key processes that control the mean axial and radial locations of the spots, and are responsible for the observed scatter. The advection of the most reactive mixture through the domain, and hence the history of evolution of the developing radical pools were considered to this effect.