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San Francisco bans delivery robots from public sidewalks

San Francisco has banned sidewalk delivery robots, squashing a delivery method that is still in its infancy. Not many of these robots exist, but some companies, such as Domino’s, are testing them in various regions. The decision to ban these bots from operating on public sidewalks was made unanimously by the city’s Board of Supervisors.

Not familiar with delivery robots? They’re basically small autonomous vehicles with a locking compartment in which a product is placed (goods, food, whatever you ordered). The robot delivers the product to the customer on its own, or at least they will in the future; for now a human has to tag along to make sure everything goes according to plan.

While self-driving cars would of course use the same road as any other delivery car, these smaller delivery robots use the sidewalk, and that’s a problem for many people. Concerns include congestion that makes it difficult for pedestrians to walk and the safety of those pedestrians. San Francisco isn’t taking the risk and has instead entirely banned these bots from the city’s sidewalks.

According to the SF Chronicle, the city will be limited to having nine of these bots total, with each company limited to three bots. As well, these companies are limited to testing the delivery robots in industrial areas with a low population, putting up a big hurdle that will get in the way of adequate testing in real-life environments. As well, city officials decided that a human must accompany the delivery robot wherever it goes and the vehicle can’t move faster than 3MPH.

The ruling isn’t without its critics. The restrictions have been decried as excessive by some who worry they’ll slow down development of such technologies. Some have suggested that San Francisco’s decision has more to do with protecting delivery jobs than it does with protecting the public from robot-based hazards.

SOURCE: San Francisco Chronicle