Thursday, January 4, 2018

Progress Hating San Francisco Lefties Turn Against Robots

By Leslie Hook

San Francisco’s anti-tech backlash has a new target: robots. This is a place that ought to love artificial intelligence. After all, Silicon Valley is home to some of the most advanced robotics labs in the world. But when it comes to sharing its sidewalks with these technological wonders, San Francisco has said, “Forget it.”

The city recently cracked down on delivery robots — autonomous devices such as those tested by Yelp’s Eat24 service last year, that travel on the sidewalk to distribute food and other essentials to customers. New rules limit them to a speed of 3mph, and require a human operator nearby. Moreover, only nine delivery robots can be tested in the city at any time, dashing the hopes of start-ups that had envisioned fleets of self-driving bots taking hot pizza to hungry millennials.

Like many Silicon Valley innovations, the robots have found their least welcoming audience at home. In fact, several of the city’s most prominent start-ups have faced some of their toughest opposition here.

Take Airbnb, the accommodation company. In 2016, San Francisco passed a law on home-sharing that was so restrictive, Airbnb sued the city over it. (That lawsuit has been settled, but all Airbnb hosts in SF must still obtain a business licence and registration before they can let their homes.) The same goes for Uber and Lyft: city leaders routinely lambast them for causing congestion and double parking. More than half of all traffic violations in the downtown area are attributable to Uber and Lyft drivers, according to a police study.

Amid this broader antipathy towards tech, robots have come to occupy a special place of loathing in San Francisco. An incident in December highlighted the depths of the city’s dislike.

Read the rest here.

1 comment:

  1. --- New rules limit them to a speed of 3mph, and require a human operator nearby. ---

    Those proposed ridiculous rules remind me of the law the British parliament passed at the end of the 19th Century that mandated every motorized vehicle operated in country roads have a person walking in front with a red flag to warn others. That law was passed at a time the only motorized vehicles on those roads were big and slow steam-powered tractors, but stayed in place some years after automobiles were more numerous which stiffled the growth of the automobile industry in the UK while it was growing everywhere else.

    Rules like those the SF city council wants to pass would equally stiffle the development and growth of an industry that could have a great and positive impact for city dwellers.