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San Francisco’s Office of Emerging Technology gets the green light

Applications will be judged on whether they “ultimately result in a net common good” as well as on costs and benefits.

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San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors has voted unanimously in favour of the proposal to set up a new office to manage permit applications for technology-based services that use public infrastructure.

 

The Office of Emerging Technology, introduced by Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee, will be part of San Francisco’s Department of Public Works and assess new technology deployments on whether they “ultimately result in a net common good” as well as on costs and benefits.

 

Cities have faced challenges with ensuring regulation keeps pace with innovation, particularly San Francisco which is a hotbed for start-ups.

 

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.

 

Rewarding "good players"

 

The new office will impose penalties on companies that fail to request permission for new technologies and devices which could block the public right of way.

 

Administrative fines could be up to $1,000 per day, criminal fines up to $100 per day for the first violation, and civil penalties up to $500 per day.

 

“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 players with the city,” Yee is quoted as saying.

 

According to the San Francisco Examiner, it will cost $2,006 to submit an application for review.

 

Technology should serve the public’s best interests, not the other way around.

 

“I am often incredibly impressed by the ingenuity of start-ups and the pace of technological innovation,” Yee said in a previous 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.”

 

Clarity

 

Yee said he didn’t believe the office would stifle innovation, noting that 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 San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and tech association sf.citi have expressed support for the initiative. The Office of Emerging Technology could open by January 2020.

 

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