The office would assess new technology deployments on whether they “ultimately result in a net common good” as well as on costs and benefits.
San Francisco is considering setting up a dedicated Office of Emerging Technology, within its Department of Public Works, to assess and co-ordinate permit applications for technology-based services that would use public infrastructure.
Cities have faced challenges with ensuring regulation keeps pace with innovation, particularly San Francisco which is a hotbed for start-ups and has seen everything from electric scooters to delivery robots rolled out on its streets and sidewalks.
In cities around the world, there have been clashes and legal challenges around new high-tech services relating to licencing, taxes, employment, safety and more.
San Francisco’s proposed legislation to create the Office of Emerging Technology, sponsored by Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee, would see penalties for companies that fail to request permission for new technologies and devices which could block the public right of way.
Applications would be judged on whether they “ultimately result in a net common good” as well as on costs and benefits.
“I am often incredibly impressed by the ingenuity of start-ups and the pace of technological innovation,” Yee said in a statement. “But technology should serve the public’s best interests, not the other way around. As a city, we must ensure that such technologies ultimately result in a net common good and that we evaluate the costs and benefits so that our residents, workers and visitors are not unwittingly made guinea pigs of new tech.”
Technology should serve the public’s best interests, not the other way around.
He said he didn’t believe the office would stifle innovation. He noted one of the major complaints from tech companies is that there is a lack of clarity around permit requirements and how to apply, and that the creation of the new office would also aim to address this.
The public has 30 days to comment on the legislation before it is voted on by the Board of Supervisors. The new office could open by January 2020.
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