SF opens door for regulation of delivery robots


Autonomous delivery robots now have a chance to use some of San Francisco’s sidewalks under a new revised proposed ordinance from Supervisor Norman Yee.

On Tuesday, Yee introduced revisions to his proposal at the Board of Supervisors meeting, that will require companies such as the San Francisco-based Marble, to sign up for a permit with The City, and have companies follow regulations under the permit program.

Some of those regulations include setting a maximum number of permits for companies to test the robots in Production, Distribution and Repair zones in The City, according to Yee’s office.

The regulations will also require companies to agree with a labor harmony clause and ensure a human is a close by the robot when in operation.

Yee said that his proposal was not an outright ban on the robots in The City, but to make sure pedestrians are able to navigate on the sidewalks:

“I resolutely believe that our sidewalks should be prioritized for humans.”

Yee added:

“We do not allow bicycles and Segways on our sidewalks, and the protection of our public spaces is and should be our highest priority.”

The proposed ordinance will have to head back to the board’s Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee because of the changes.

Yee’s original proposal called for prohibiting the robots from using the sidewalks. The amendments strike a balance now with public safety and innovation, said Yee.

Supervisor Mark Farrell said he appreciated the safety concerns brought up by Yee, but said that The City should embrace innovations and learn how incorporate them into The City:

“If we don’t do that, the tech world is going to innovate around us.”

CEO of Marble Matt Delaney said in a statement:

“Marble is committed to continuing San Francisco’s legacy of developing the world’s leading technology and we support a framework that allows for the manufacturing or testing of autonomous delivery systems.”

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. A San Francisco native, he has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Send tips to or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

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