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- San Francisco has become a testing ground for new tech in recent years as electric scooters, delivery robots, and ride-sharing cars have entered the city’s ecosystem.
- But some side effects have included sidewalk and street congestion and negative public sentiment as tech companies have unabashedly dropped new products into public areas without permission.
- The city’s new Office of Emerging Technology will help regulate new tech before it hits the city’s streets and sidewalks.
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From an outsider’s perspective, San Francisco may look like the city of the future with the delivery robots, electric scooters, and ride-sharing cars that have emerged in recent years.
But the entrance of these new technologies into the San Francisco ecosystem hasn’t been without its problems.
So the city’s new Office of Emerging Technology, which could open as early as December, will help regulate new tech before it hits San Francisco’s streets and sidewalks.
Here’s how it would work: before a company wishes to launch a new product in a public space, it would need to submit an application for a fee to the office, which will then consult the public and city departments before coming to a decision. If a company launches technology in San Francisco without permission, they’ll be fined up to $1,000 a day.
It’s a much-needed process as San Francisco has become a playground of sorts for tech startups wanting to test new technology on residents, with some opting to ask for forgiveness instead of permission when launching their product in public areas.
Ride-sharing giants Uber and Lyft, both Bay Area-based, were some of the first startups to unload their product onto the streets around 2011. But the slew of ride-sharing cars frazzled city officials and contributed to traffic congestion citywide.
In 2016, delivery startup Marble began testing sidewalk delivery bots before the city’s Board of Supervisors swooped in with some of the country’s most restrictive regulations on delivery bots. Sidewalk congestion was one of the biggest factors. Fellow delivery robot startup Starship Technologies began operating in other Bay Area cities around the same time, but not San Francisco.
And then, of course, there was Scootergate.
In 2017, electric scooter startups Bird and Lime dumped their dockless scooters onto the streets of San Francisco without the city’s permission. They were banned from the city for a short time, but the damage was done. Since then, other scooter startups have moved in, and complaints have been made about safety as well as disorder as users can leave the scooters wherever on the city’s sidewalks once their done, since there aren’t any docks.
With the new office, officials would consider how the emerging technology would affect public safety and the labor market, as reported by the SF Examiner.