San Francisco's Putting an End to Robot Pavement Congestion

By Tom Pritchard on at

Robots are in at the moment, with various start-ups and established companies looking at how autonomous creations could be utilised in the real world - whether it's for deliveries or otherwise. But San Francisco isn't going to let the robots take over the streets just yet, having voted in some strict new rules.

Various robots have been tested on the streets of San Francisco over the past few months, but now the city's Board of Supervisors have agreed on some stricter regulations after concerns were raised that the robots could end up taking over the city's pavements.

Supervisor Norman Yee, who proposed the new regulations, said this to the other five members of the board:

“Maybe five years from now, when we have 20,000 robots roaming around on the streets and people have to walk on the streets with the cars. Maybe then we’ll do something. That seems to be a problem we have in San Francisco, and I don’t want to let things get out of hand again.”

Yee was reportedly hoping for an outright ban, and while the rules have been toned down in the time since it's not going to make things easy for any companies betting on robot tech. For starters no company will be allowed more than three robots, with a total of nine allowed in the whole city. The robots will also be restricted to low-population areas, require constant human monitoring, and won;t be allowed to travel more than three miles per hour.

So, while not a ban, it means that the robots are going to be virtually useless for practical use. Suddenly Amazon's drone plan looks a lot more appealing, though that itself comes with its own fair share of hurdles - both in terms of regulation and practical use.

It's not difficult to blame the city for instigating the new rules. Walking on the pavement can be bad enough at the best of times, and that's without robots getting in the way driving into people's ankles. But who knows, maybe they can hire Elon Musk to go around drilling tunnels specifically designed for robotic traffic. [San Francisco Chronicle via TechCrunch]

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