San Francisco to robots: Don’t crowd our sidewalks

Carolyn Said and Benny Evangelista for the SF Chronicle:  Robots that trundle along sidewalks R2D2-style to deliver takeout food or packages are still in early test phases. Few even exist.

But San Francisco is cracking down on them, and that may stem from mounting concerns about automation gobbling up jobs. On Tuesday night, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors unanimously passed tough new regulations that will limit companies to three robots each; limit the city to nine robots total; and confine robots to industrial areas where almost no one lives — all of which makes it hard to test their basic function of delivering goods to consumers. The robots can’t go faster than 3 mph and must have a human monitor, the new law says.

Still, the regulations were more liberal than an original proposal by Supervisor Norman Yee to outright ban the robots. He and supporters, which included pedestrian advocacy groups, said they want to prevent sidewalk crowding and protect seniors, children and disabled people. San Francisco already has banned Segways and bicycles from sidewalk use.

San Francisco’s ordinance resembles laws enacted in the early days of “horseless carriages” that required a person to walk in front of a car waving a red flag, said Bob Doyle, spokesman for the Association for Advancing Automation Association, an industry organization that represents U.S. robotics and automation companies.  Full Article:

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