People want Toronto to get rid of delivery robots on city sidewalks
Ever since Toronto startup Tiny Mile's foray into remote control delivery robots last year, it's no longer a rarity to see a peculiar smiling, heart-eyed pink box traversing the city's streets.
Residents have generally been pretty enamoured with Geoffrey, the name given to the members of the fleet of A.I. bots that have been zooming around delivering food across T.O. for months now with the goal of cutting down on costs for businesses and also on Co2 missions for the environment.
Some have snapped photos or videos for social media. Others have marvelled at the technology, with the 13 pound boxes controlled by human drivers in a centralized office.
But, not everyone in the city has been charmed by the cute little bots.
Welcome to the future. Saw delivery robot navigating the streets of Toronto Chinatown 🤖 . Apparently it’s made by Tiny Mile. Devices are named “Geoffrey”. They deliver food and snacks 🍱 🍦 . Nov 13 2021 @tiny_mile @WIRED @sciam @CityNewsTO #tinymile #technology #robotdelivery pic.twitter.com/w7mZwA0YUR— Soul (@redstarrising10) November 14, 2021
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance is among those currently calling for robots like Geoffrey to be banned from public sidewalks and in other public spaces, stating in a new brief that such technology "creates a substantial and worrisome new disability barrier impeding people with disabilities in their safe use of public sidewalks and other paths of travel."
The group condemns not just Geoffrey, but the use of all deliverbots , self-driving or remotely-driven snow removal machines and other robotic service devices, scanning devices and personal robots (if there are such things in the city, really), with the argument that they can pose a tripping and safety hazard to the vision impaired, or a physical impediment to the mobility impaired.
"Sidewalks are an important publicly-funded public resource created for pedestrians to safely use," the brief continues. "Their use should not be undermined for such things as private companies' delivery robots."
The Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee met on Monday to discuss these concerns, and is now advising that city council prohibit the use of any micro-utility devices on sidewals and cycle tracks.
In the case of Geoffrey, at least, the human driver navigating busy sidewalks from afar can hopefully notice and safely maneuver around anyone approaching who may need extra space.
There is also the fact, as the company has stated, that "there are already a lot of people on the streets, so [our] 200 robots won't increase congestion even a fraction of a per cent."
Still, some have expressed worry on social media that such bots could indeed clutter up sidewalks and impede pedestrian travel.
As one citizen said on Twitter, "if those things get in my way, it's getting kicked onto the street."
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