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San Francisco Curbs Usage of Autonomous Delivery Robots on its Streets


San Francisco has voted to ban autonomous delivery robots on most sidewalks and limit usage in the areas where they are permitted. The new legislation allows the Department of Public Works to issue permits for the testing of “Autonomous Delivery Devices” with a long list of rules in place, including but not limited to: Autonomous delivery devices would not be allowed to travel more than three miles per hour; A human operator would be required to remain within 30 feet of the device during testing; and that permittees would only be allowed to test autonomous delivery devices on sidewalks that a) are located in zoning districts designated for Production, Design, and Repair (“PDR”) uses, b) are not identified as a high-injury corridor. The new rules are the strictest in the nation and a departure from the approach of states like Idaho, where new rules actively encourage robot delivery. Proponents say delivery robots relieve congestion and reduce accidents on city roads. But some pedestrians in San Francisco have complained that they crowd sidewalks and present a hazard to humans. Autonomous delivery robots began toting food to waiting customers in San Francisco earlier this year after a company called Marble partnered with Yelp Eat 24 to test its flagship delivery bot. The four-wheeled robot is the size of an office copy machine.

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