San Francisco Attempts to Ban Robot Delivery Services

California is home to Silicon Valley and some of the nation’s greatest pioneers in technology and innovation. Yet the Golden State is also home to some of the most burdensome regulatory policies in the nation.

Technology and big government may soon prove incompatible in San Francisco, where Supervisor Norman Yee recently proposed a new city-wide ordinance that would ban delivery robots from operating on the city’s streets.

Marble, a local tech startup, recently launched a pilot program for Yelp’s new Eat24 app using small robots to deliver food to hungry San Francisco residents. These types of delivery robots are a growing trend – they already exist in cities like Washington, D.C. and have recently been legalized in states like Virginia and Idaho

The San Francisco delivery robots travel at 3-to-4 miles per hour and are supervised by humans. Delivery bots also contain cameras and sensors to help the robots navigate and avoid running into humans. Developers have argued that robot delivery reduces congestion and pollution and takes excess cars off the roads, too.

Yet, Supervisor Yee is not having it.

“Our streets and sidewalks are made for people, not robots,” Yee told Recode, a popular tech-news site.

Wired elaborates

[Supervisor Norman Yee] didn’t necessarily start out to ban delivery bots…he first met with the police and other agencies about regulating delivery robots in some way but abandoned the idea. It’d be too hard to determine…how many are rolling around out there, and at what speed, he claims.

Yee concluded, “It didn’t seem very enforceable if we were to regulate it…so for me then the regulation becomes they shouldn’t be on sidewalk.”

If the ordinance is enacted, penalties for not following the law could include a $1,000 fine and a jail sentence.

The proposed robot delivery ban is only the latest example of government overreach that threatens to stifle innovation that makes life easier — especially for young Americans.

Instead of banning a technology that may present some challenges, the rest of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors should find ways to work with and empower technology innovators and small business owners. By embracing free-market solutions, the San Francisco Board could make a real difference and create new opportunities for economic growth in the San Francisco community.  

Author Generation Opportunity

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