While the city won’t be outright banning these bots, they are now not allowed on crowded city sidewalks. These bots have a lot of rules to follow before they hit the streets (Image via Reuters)

 

When it was first introduced, the idea of delivery robots sounded absurd. Now, it’s close to becoming a reality, but maybe not in San Francisco. Companies are currently testing out these bots, but are hitting a road block when it comes to San Fran. Recently, the city’s Board of Supervisors voted to keep these bots off the sidewalks, at least the most crowded ones. They want to regulate these bots to less crowded areas and require a permit for any autonomous delivery devices.

 

Concerns regarding these delivery bots were first brought up by the group Walk San Francisco. They were concerned that the robots could be a hazard to kids and the elderly trying to navigate the crowded sidewalks. They wanted the city to do something, and their first response was an outright ban on delivery bots. Since then, this stance has soften to regulation with a long list of rules to follow. Other restrictions include a speed limit of 3 mph, the need for a human monitor nearby, confinement to industrial areas, and a maximum of nine delivery robots in the entire city.

 

This seems like the smarter move considering how close the city is to Silicon Valley – home of tech innovation. The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce lobbied against a ban saying it "could create a massive barrier to future innovation in the industry.” Supervisor Norman Yee, who created the ordinance, aims to keep the sidewalks safe for pedestrians while supporting local startups.

 

Various companies are already testing these new bots in many of the city’s neighborhoods, most notably Marble. Recently, the company teamed up with Yelp to make Eat24 food deliveries in and around the Bay Area. Commenting about the city’s new regulations, the company said “We’re happy for the productive relationship that we’ve built with the Board of Supervisors, and we agree that this is a promising first step in crafting a regulatory system that will help San Francisco lead the way in robotics innovation and creating well-paid manufacturing jobs.”

 

So, whether you’re ready for a tiny robot to give you your packages or you’re suspicious of the autonomous bots, delivery robots are coming and may be here to stay.

 

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