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New Robot Laws Passed in San Francisco

18 December 2017

In the category of 21st century headlines.

From Euro Cheddar:

The number of delivery robots in San Francisco has just been decreased as lawmakers passed strict regulations pertaining to what’s now become known as ‘disruptive innovations’.

. . . .

Over the past year delivery robots started appearing on the sidewalks of San Francisco as companies like Starship and Marble developed business model robots as a service. The idea behind this is that robot companies would be contracted to food delivery apps to make deliveries. While many residents have welcomed this level of innovation as part of the future, not everyone is as positive about it. Norman Yee, the supervisor of San Francisco is not at all keen on robots roaming around the city’s streets. Yee claims that innovation is not always good for society and was the person who wrote the legislation.

. . . .

Only nine permits in total will be allowed at any given time and only three permits per company will be allowed. Robots are now only allowed to operate within the confines of certain neighbourhoods and on streets with sidewalks of a minimum width of 6 feet. Robots are also to be accompanied by a human at all times.

Link to the rest at Euro Cheddar

PG is a member of the State Bar of California, but he did not realize there were any old robot laws in San Francisco.

Disruptive Innovation

18 Comments to “New Robot Laws Passed in San Francisco”

  1. There was a time when communities passed laws restricting horseless carriage operations.
    They didn’t last.

    The future comes at its own pace, whether you like it or not.

    Alvin Toffler got a big bestseller out of that. He called it FUTURE SHOCK.

  2. This reminds me of the infamous laws requiring horseless carriages to be preceded by a flagman going on foot, so as not to frighten the horses. I believe some of those laws were never repealed; but when were any of them ever enforced?

  3. I want to know what these robots look like. The pictures accompanying the article are clearly stock photos.

  4. “Robots are also to be accompanied by a human at all times.”

    Which means you don’t need the robot.

    Sounds like a ‘not in my backyard’ law …

    • So, instead of doing something to make the homeless not-homeless they prefer to protect their “right” to squat on the steeets and sidewalks.

      Sounds about right for SF.

  5. Norman Yee, the supervisor of San Francisco…

    Is that an actual government position – supervisor of San Francisco?

    • Until now I thought “supervisor” was for townships, in lieu of a mayor. But it seems San Francisco has a whole board of supervisors, and this Yee is just one of them.

      I’m a tad disappointed in this story. I really hoped someone was just augmenting Asimov’s robot laws 🙂

    • It’s the equivalent of a City Council position. They have them by the dozen. No actual supervision takes place just politicking and pandering.


      It’s San Francisco, you gotta go with the flow. 🙂

    • San Francisco’s city/county budget is almost 10 billion dollars – more than that of many states and countries.

  6. Just tell Yee the robots are homeless.

  7. They’re going to have to pass a lot more anti-robot laws of they hope to keep robotics at bay:


    Robot proliferation just hit the first inflection point in the adoption curve. Boom Times are coming…

  8. Aww, come on, Felix. You’re just upset to be living in a backwater where robots – much less regulation of robot activity – isn’t a thing yet.

    • Backwater?
      Last I looked local robotics r&d were doing fine. Still looking for ways to deal with the holy grail of commercial robotics, though: economically viable fruit picker bots.
      It’ll come, though. The economic incentive to keep up with the 21st century is strong. And we’re not saddled with NIMBY luddites.

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