The City Council of Toronto, Canada has voted to ban automated robots from operating on sidewalks and cycle tracks until it has the opportunity to further study their effects upon the community. Discussions arose regarding the presence of robots in the city when Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation proposed a 10-year pilot allowing micro-utility devices, including automated personal delivery devices, for off-road use in places such as sidewalks. The proposal suggested such devices travel at no more than 10 km/hr on sidewalks, be marked with an operator’s name and contact details, and have mandatory audible signals, reflectors with lights, brakes, insurance and a requirement to yield to pedestrians.
The ban proposal was initially presented by the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee, which expressed concerns about sidewalk robots being hazards for people with low mobility or vision, as well as elderly people and children.
“Sidewalks are an important publicly-funded public resource, created for pedestrians to safely use,” David Lepofsky, the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said. “Their safe use should not be undermined for such things as private companies’ delivery robots.”
The Council did issue an amendment to the ban with a Transportation Innovation Challenge to begin in the second quarter of 2022. The challenge would give the City Council an opportunity to explore and support local economic development with respect to the sidewalk robots. The general manager of transportation services will consult with local entrepreneurs, sidewalk robot manufacturers, accessibility community members, law enforcement, and other stakeholders and then report back to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee on their findings.