Delivery robots just got bot-blocked in San Francisco

Ground bots are the new battleground for companies looking to automate deliveries of everything from food to marijuana. And San Francisco's not havin' it.


December 8, 2017

As drones face increasingly harsh regulations, ground bots have become the new battleground for companies looking to automate deliveries of everything from food to marijuana.

But yesterday, San Fran’s Board of Supervisors voted in favor of a measure to restrict the use of delivery robots on its streets.

In a city prided for its innovation, we’re guessing this move is gonna ruffle some feathers in the delivery space — especially considering that other less tech-savvy places have accepted similar robots with open arms.

2017: the year of sidewalk bots

Back in March, Virginia became the first state to sign legislation allowing robots on sidewalks and crosswalks. By July, Idaho, Wisconsin, Florida, and Ohio had enacted similar laws.

All of these laws come with some red tape: bots have to be under 80 pounds, stick to speeds below 10 MPH, and remain under the control of a remote human operator in case a bot decides to go rogue.

But, San Francisco’s rules will be much stricter

Existing companies will be limited to a max of 3 robots per fleet (9 total in the whole city), at a max speed of 3 MPH — and they’ll be confined to “low population industrial areas…” which pretty much defeats the purpose of using them for delivery.

Why the harsh limitations? City supervisor Norman Yee, who proposed the legislation back in May, argues that too many bots would just create more clutter on already highly-trafficked sidewalks.

“Our streets and our sidewalks are made for people, not robots,” he told Recode. “…[But] maybe in the future there will be robot lanes.”

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