A lot of ink has been spilled on the rise of the machines — in this case, machones that roll merrily along the sidewalk to deliver you your lunch (or whatever). But now a San Francisco supervisor wants to stop these mechanical slaves in their tracks, citing safety concerns for sidewalk users.
It all started so peacefully. We all enjoyed the video of this R2D2-looking delivery robot when it made the rounds a little more than a year ago. By September, they had hit SF sidewalks, soon we were seeing even more delivery company robots in the Mission, and last month Eat24's robots appeared on the sidewalks of the Mission and Potrero Hill.
While the powerful sidewalk cyclist lobby has remained silent, Supervisor Norman Yee has not. While the district he represents — District 7, a weird-shaped patch of Southwestern SF — has so far been free of the devices, he's not taking any chances.
According to the Ex, Yee will introduce legislation banning all "autonomous delivery services on sidewalks and public right-of-ways in San Francisco." All companies seeking to use robot delivery devices on SF streets would be covered by the ban, Yee says.
“I’m doing this because I do care about safety, and it’s something that could endanger our pedestrians, especially ones who are vulnerable,” Yee tells the Ex.
Yee says the ban is a result of his efforts to create regulations for the robots. According to the Ex, he "met with various robot delivery companies, and even had one visit his office during discussions. He also met with city departments to weigh different options, but there were concerns that regulations would be unwieldy." Therefore, the total ban. (A call to his office from SFist with follow-up questions was not returned as of publication time)
Pedestrian advocacy group Walk SF tells the Ex that they support the ban, with their interim executive director saying “We call them side ‘walks,’ for walking. We’d like to see them stay that way.”
Yee says he'll introduce the ban legislation at today's full Board of Supervisors meeting, which begins at 2 p.m. The public is welcome to watch the meeting via SF GovTV or in person, just behind the door to Legislative Chamber, Room 250.