San Francisco moves to manage tech testing on its streets
Many cities have expressed concern about how new mobility technologies affect residents and businesses. Scooters clutter city curbs, ridesharing businesses undercut local public transit and licensed taxis, and robots are poised to roll down sidewalks and fly over residents delivering food and packages. Many of these services are licensed, but some technologies are being tested on city streets without the knowledge or permission of local officials.
In San Francisco, a city with longstanding support of innovation, the City Council unanimously approved the creation of an Office of Emerging Technology that would require companies piloting new innovations to get a permit to ensure their devices and equipment do not impair the public right-of-way.
OET would sit in the Public Works Department and would evaluate citywide impact of emerging technologies — beta, test or pre-sale product or system or application software — on city residents and infrastructure, including those resources on, above or below the street.
As the city’s emerging technology “front door,” OET will measure and evaluate the effects of new products on San Francisco residents and city resources, offering a clear and streamlined process for supporting innovation that is safe and promotes the public good.
Innovators will pay a $2,000 application fee to have their technology reviewed. Those found testing projects without approval would be fined.
“If an emerging tech company launches their device without approval, we now for the first time will have the mechanism to stop these bad players and reward the innovators that are committed to being good partners with the city,” Supervisor Norman Yee, who sponsored the ordinance, told the board.
Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.
Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company’s government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.
Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.
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