A Marble sidewalk delivery robot moves down Valencia Street in San Francisco’s Mission District on July 21, 2017. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

A Marble sidewalk delivery robot moves down Valencia Street in San Francisco’s Mission District on July 21, 2017. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

SF puts strict limits on delivery robots

After a six-month debate over delivery robots using San Francisco’s sidewalks, The City on Tuesday adopted tough restrictions on the automated devices.

Supervisor Norman Yee, with the support of pedestrian safety groups, initially proposed an outright ban on robot deliveries. That proposal faced strong opposition from robot companies, such as Marble, which is based in Potrero Hill.

Yee subsequently amended the legislation to allow for limited permits for robots to use public sidewalks only in largely industrial and warehouse areas of The City, known as areas zoned as production, distribution and repair (or PDR), and where there are fewer pedestrians “for these devices to bump into.”

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the legislation Tuesday. “Today is about keeping our sidewalks for people,” Yee said.

The City already bans bicycles and Segways from its sidewalks. Yee and his supporters had threatened to take the original outright ban proposal to the ballot if they weren’t satisfied with the outcome.

Permits would allow only nine delivery robots permitted at any one time and only three per permittee in an area relegated to 130 streets, or a total of 761 blocks.

Supervisor Malia Cohen initially expressed concerns about stifling innovation, which she said could possibly lead to “a robot that picks up needles.” There is a proliferation of discarded syringes in San Francisco public spaces.

But Yee said The City can assemble a task force to hone regulations that could open up more areas, but in the interim restrictions were necessary to ensure the use doesn’t get out of control.

Prior to the vote, Yee painted a dystopian vision of “20,000 robots roaming around the streets and people have to walk not on the sidewalks but have to walk on the streets with the cars” if they went unchecked.
Politics

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco Police Officer Nicholas Buckley, pictured here in 2014, is now working out of Bayview Station. <ins>(Department of Police Accountability records)</ins>
SF police return officer to patrol despite false testimony

A San Francisco police officer accused of fabricating a reason for arresting… Continue reading

Disability advocates protested outside the home of San Francisco Health Officer Tomas Aragon. (Courtesy Brooke Anderson)
Vaccine rollout plan for people with disabilities remains deeply flawed

On February 13, disability activists paid a visit to the house of… Continue reading

Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Shamann Walton announced that funding would be diverted from the police budget toward the black community in June 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City directs $60 million toward Black community services and housing support

San Francisco released new details Thursday for how it plans to spend… Continue reading

The Stud, The City’s oldest gay bar which is vacating its longtime home at Ninth and Harrison streets after more than 50 years, on Thursday, May 21, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City’s nightlife recovery fund approved but struggling business owners fear relief may come too late

As San Francisco’s nightlife scene approaches nearly a year of a complete… Continue reading

Riordan Crusaders versus St. Ignatius Wildcats at JB Murphy Field on the St. Ignatius Prepatory High School Campus on September 14, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner)
State allows high school sports to resume, but fight is far from over

For the first time since mid-March 2020, there is hope for high… Continue reading

Most Read