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San Francisco Seeks to Ban Delivery Robots

* City Supervisor seeks ban, citing public safety
* Police see nothing illegal about the robots
* Company says safety is a top concern

Less than a month after San Francisco-based startup Marble launched a fleet of food delivery robots, Supervisor Norman Yee has put forth legislation to ban all delivery robots in the city, calling them a public safety hazard. Wired reports that there have been no problems between pedestrians and robots on city sidewalks, but that doesn’t deter Yee. “For me to wait for something to happen is silly because I think it’s going to happen.”

The technology is still brand new. A system of cameras and lasers allow the robots to autonomously navigate sidewalks. They are able to cross streets and reroute to avoid obstacles, but as can be expected with new technology, there are some bugs. Wired followed one of the delivery bots last month, and saw it stop just short of running over a dog. Humans monitor the robots in case they get into trouble.

While Yee has proposed decisive action, his plan wasn’t always to ban the robots. After conferring with the police department and other city agencies, he determined that taking steps to regulate the robots would not be enough to prevent accidents. “The conclusion was that it didn’t seem very enforceable if we were to regulate it,” he says. “So for me then the regulation becomes they shouldn’t be on the sidewalks.”

A San Francisco police spokesperson says they don’t see anything illegal about the robots, likening them to deliverymen pushing dollies on the sidewalk. For its part, Marble said in a press release,”We share Supervisor Yee’s commitment to safety. In fact, safety is at the core of everything that we do at Marble.”