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San Francisco considers ban on sidewalk delivery robots

The robots are currently in testing by a food-delivery service in two San Francisco neighborhoods.

Legislation would ban sidewalk delivery robots, like this one in San Francisco's Mission district.

San Francisco is considering legislation that would put the brakes on delivery robots rolling across the city's sidewalks.

The robots, once confined to sci-fi movies, have rolled into real-world testing. But they would be banned from San Francisco streets under legislation supervisor Norman Yee introduced on Tuesday. He told the San Francisco Chronicle that he initially considered regulating the robots but soon concluded rules would be unenforceable.

"I want to keep our sidewalks safe for people," Yee said. "Seniors, children, people with disabilities can't maneuver quickly" to avoid robots, he told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Food delivery startup Marble already has a handful of robots delivering orders to the Mission and Potrero Hill neighborhoods of San Francisco. The robots stand just over 4 feet tall and are built on top of an electric wheelchair base. Their cargo bays can hold up to four grocery bags at a time.

It uses various sensors, including Lidar, or light detection and ranging technology like that used in self-driving cars, to help it navigate city sidewalks. The robot rolls along at a leisurely walking pace of 3 to 4 miles per hour.

Marble CEO told the Chronicle that safety was a top priority.

"We look forward to working with the supervisors, neighborhood groups and others to craft smart regulation that balances the needs of pedestrian safety, local businesses, manufacturing and innovation," he said in a statement.

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