UPDATED, Dec. 16, 2019: San Francisco's Board of Supervisors last week unanimously approved the creation of the nation's first Office of Emerging Technology, which would be tasked with regulating new devices and technologies not yet covered under city code.
The vote is the first of two needed to pass the legislation, according to the San Francisco Business Times. The next vote will take place Tuesday and, if passed, will head to Mayor London Breed.
- San Francisco would establish what's thought to be the nation's first Office of Emerging Technology under legislation introduced last week by Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee. The office would be tasked with overseeing and regulating any technology not covered under the city's current code.
- The office, which would get $250,000 in budget funding, would create a streamlined permitting process to help companies test and operate in the city, and to give regulators more control over any technology in use.
- The proposal will be heard before a committee this month. Yee aims to pass it by the end of the year, according to his office.
Cities — San Francisco being no exception — have been caught off guard by many new technological innovations.
As the scooter trend emerged, operators essentially dropped their vehicles on sidewalks, leaving regulators scrambling to figure out how to control them. Even more than a year later, cities are still writing new rules and facing unexpected challenges, like how to fund infrastructure to support micromobility vehicles. San Francisco famously pulled back on scooters by launching a restricted year-long pilot program last spring to better manage their impact.
Yee's proposal would give both tech companies and regulators a one-stop shop to manage the debut of new tech. For example, if a company was proposing a food delivery device that would operate on city streets and sidewalks, the new office could help coordinate approval from the Department of Public Health, Public Works and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.
The idea came out of the Emerging Technology Working Group, which was founded in 2018 and includes more than 200 participants from the tech industry, academia and advocates. Those participants recommended a "front door" to better facilitate technology pilots, allowing for regulation that would not stifle innovation.
Yee's office said they were not aware of any other jurisdiction that had a similar office, although there have been some public-private councils designed to sort out regulatory issues, like the U.S. Department of Transportation's Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology Council.