San Francisco homeless laws are out of date

San Francisco bans rolling robots

In the tech metropolis of all places, self-propelled roll containers that deliver food or parcels are undesirable. It is a question of principle.

Johannes Kuhn San Francisco

The streets of San Francisco are pretty steep and rarely empty: Tourists in hip game look crowd next to young programmers who drag themselves and their amazingly expensive laptop bags to the company bus in the direction of Silicon Valley; From their cardboard houses on the roadside, homeless people watch as self-driving cars do their test laps in heavy traffic. The tolerant metropolis on the American west coast is rarely bothered by these differences. For a long time it was therefore considered impossible that the hustle and bustle would become too colorful for her. But now the city council has actually identified a troublemaker who should have no place in the cityscape: the delivery robot.

A few start-ups are having small roll container couriers deliver food or parcels on a test basis. They can be opened using a smartphone app and they will find their way to the desired address independently. They lurch across the sidewalk. And that is exactly what city councilor Norman Yee called on the scene: "Not every invention is good for society," he grumbled. "What happens here if we cannot go into a store without being run over by a robot?" He received support from groups of pedestrians, wheelchair users and senior citizens.

Human accompaniment is required

Although Yee reports constant complaints, local residents reportedly rarely saw the test robots. The self-driving messengers can recognize pedestrians anyway and avoid them, in an emergency there is currently a person on their heels who can intervene using a joystick and prevent collisions. Nevertheless, the city council has issued strict rules for the robots: Only nine of them are allowed to drive in the city at the same time and that in human company and on selected streets, which are mainly in sparsely populated industrial areas. The maximum speed is 4.8 kilometers per hour - the states of Virginia, Idaho, Wisconsin and Florida allow autonomous delivery men to more than triple that. The requirements come pretty close to a ban.

1 / 12

The fundamental question behind the ban on robots is who is in charge in San Francisco. For years, the city maintained a close proximity to the technology industry, attracted young companies like Twitter with tax discounts, let the local Airbnb do it despite exploding rental prices and proudly presented itself as a metropolis of progress. However, because normal wage earners can hardly afford the city and activists are putting pressure on them, the city council is positioning itself more and more critically. Yee's colleague Jane Kim even called for a robot tax to cushion the consequences of automation. "Should the rich still get a luxury at the swipe of a finger that saves them money and doesn't cost a tip?" Asked a senior activist during the hearings. The delivery robots are another example of "apartheid in San Francisco, the gap between the haves and the have-nots".

Laws like those from the early days of the automobile

A spokesman for the automation industry compares the newly enacted requirements with laws from the early days of the automobile, according to which a man with a red flag had to precede the “horseless carriages”. Whether delivery robots are really the future and whether they belong on the sidewalk is controversial even in tech circles.

This robocop was supposed to evict the homeless. (Video: Tamedia / Knightscope / Sam Dodge)

But not only the profit-oriented technology industry, but also the non-profit local animal shelter relies on the self-propelled carts. The facility hit the headlines for having a 95 centimeter high security robot patrol its property. He films his surroundings and uses lasers and heat sensors to report suspicious activity. The number of cracked cars and homeless tents around the animal shelter has decreased, it is said. Critics complain: Can a home for homeless animals come up with anything better than using a robot against homeless people? The device was repeatedly the victim of vandalism, strangers smeared it with barbecue sauce and feces. The city has since asked the shelter to stop the robot patrols.

This article was automatically imported from our old editorial system to our new website. If you come across display errors, we ask for your understanding and a hint: [email protected]