Regulatory Environment: State Mandated Entrepreneurship

Christian Britschgi:

Companies in San Francisco might soon to be required to get a permission slip from the city before rolling out their new innovations in public spaces.

On Tuesday, Norman Yee, president of the city’s Board of Supervisors, introduced a bill that would create the Office of Emerging Technology (OET). Entrepreneurs looking to deploy any emerging technology “upon, above, or below” city properties or public rights-of-way would need to first obtain a pilot permit from the OET’s director.

“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,” said Yee in a statement to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Over the years San Francisco’s tech companies have deployed all kinds of inventions in public spaces, including package delivery robots and dockless electric scooters. But because these innovations were, well, innovative, no specific rules initially existed to govern their use.

That has irritated city residents and officials who’ve resented new vehicles popping up in public space without specific rules governing their operation.

Naturally, city officials have scrambled to create what they consider to be appropriate regulations, which has proved chaotic and heavy-handed. To smooth out this process, Yee has proposed the OET as a sort of regulatory catchall department that will tailor regulations for each new innovation before they hit city streets.