San Francisco limits robots on its sidewalks
It’s not difficult to imagine a near future in which knee-high autonomous robots zipping around cities to deliver packages will be a common sight. But as wheeled delivery drone tests have become more common in San Francisco, the city has grown concerned about robots clogging up the sidewalks.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to enact rules that place strict limits on robot delivery startups, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Advocates have expressed concerns that children or elderly pedestrians may be struck by the robots.
In the current iteration of the rule, delivery startups may only have three robots a piece, and the city will only allow nine robots total. Robots are also confined to industrial areas, require a human monitor at all times and cannot exceed a speed of three mph. An earlier proposed version of the regulation would have banned the robots entirely.
The rule has proven controversial, with tech startups and robotics advocates concerned that the limitations will stifle the development of important new technology.
Self-driving cars have faced similar scrutiny amid the enthusiastic push to refine the technology for delivery. Uber, for instance, has been working hard at leveraging fully autonomous vehicles, most recently striking a deal to buy 24,000 self-driving Volvos as soon as the technology is ready for production according to The New York Times.
But as recently as this month, federal legislators have been going back and forth on guidelines over autonomous vehicles because of, among other things, potential safety concerns, The Hill reported.
There has been an analogous legal back-and-forth over airborne drones as well. A recent FAA measure would require a carrier certificate for delivery drones, just one major hurdle to airborne delivery drone legality in the U.S., according to Bloomberg. The majority of drone flight testing is occurring in the U.K., where there are fewer restrictions.
- San Francisco to robots: Don’t crowd our sidewalks – San Francisco Chronicle
- Amazon vision of delivery by drone gets boost in FAA measure – Bloomberg
- Driverless car bill hits Senate speed bump – The Hill
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will autonomous delivery drones become a regular sight on sidewalks nationwide, San Francisco’s regulations notwithstanding, within the next decade? How do you see the controversy over drone delivery — on sidewalks, streets and in the air — being resolved in the U.S.?