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Legislation regulating delivery robots in SF approved in committee

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A Marble sidewalk delivery robot moves down Valencia Street in San Francisco’s Mission District on July 21, 2017. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
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Legislation that would require companies testing delivery robots in San Francisco to get a permit was approved unanimously in committee Wednesday.

The legislation, introduced by Supervisor Norman Yee in response to concerns that delivery robots might pose a threat to pedestrians and create safety issues, was originally proposed as a ban on the mobile delivery devices shortly after one company launched them on city sidewalks.

SEE RELATED: SF rolls back robot delivery ban on sidewalks

The proposal was backed by pedestrian advocacy groups but ran into opposition from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, who argued that the city should not ban potentially innovative technologies.

The current plan will allow up to three companies to obtain 180 day permits for testing up to three devices each in designated light industrial areas of The City.

The devices will not be allowed to exceed a top speed of 3 miles per hour and must have a human operator on hand at all times. They will be required to yield to pedestrians and bicycles and obey traffic signals and come equipped with headlights and warning sounds to alert pedestrians.

Yee, a vocal advocate for pedestrian safety, today said that some advocates have urged him to just go directly to the ballot with a ban, but he prefers to wait to see whether the measure passes the Board of Supervisors.

He expressed a sense of urgency in getting the measure passed, however, before the new technology is well established.

“We need to get ahead of the curve,” he said. “People say, why not wait? Well, I cannot wait.”

The legislation will be voted on by the full board in December.

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