SANTA MONICA—The Santa Monica City Council will consider adopting a moratorium of one year prohibiting delivery services of street robots in the city. The council’s virtual meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 27. 

The issue first came about in August when a company called Cyan Robotics started offering delivery services via small four-wheel robot vehicles. The services, according to a number of posts on the company’s Instagram page, were offered from 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. every day of the week delivering “everything from sunscreen to ice cream.”

According to the council’s report on the issue, “several members of the public complained that the devices obstructed sidewalks and created difficulties as people attempted to navigate around the devices.”

The complaints, plus the company not applying for a business license prior to deploying its devices prompted the city to issue a cease and desist letter. Cyan Robotics stopped all deployments in the city after receiving the letter. 

The city staff’s report to the city council clarifies that even though there are similar delivery programs in other cities, these have received a number of regulations and undergone studies to determine the service’s safety for the public. 

The report argues that in the absence of such a study, “autonomous delivery devices present a real hazard to human users of the public right of way, in addition to threatening to add clutter to pedestrian pathways and an enforcement burden on City staff.”

While city staff conducts further research and studies regulatory frameworks adopted by other municipalities for autonomous delivery services, the Santa Monica City Council will vote on whether to adopt the one-year moratorium — the order would last from October 28, 2020, until October 28, 2021. 

The City Council’s October 27 meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. via Zoom.