Delivery service hits pause button as Toronto council mulls robot ban

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Delivery service hits pause button as Toronto council mulls robot ban

Proposed ban would put Toronto robotic delivery startup out of business
Author of the article:
Bryan Passifiume
Publishing date:
Dec 09, 2021 • 13 hours ago • 2 minute read •
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A Tiny Mile robot making a delivery in downtown Toronto
A Tiny Mile robot making a delivery in downtown Toronto Photo courtesy Tiny Mile
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Toronto’s robotic future may be in jeopardy as a committee recommendation to ban autonomous robots from city sidewalks goes before council next week.
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Last week, the Infrastructure and Environment Committee adopted a report prohibiting ‘micro-utility devices’ from using city-owned sidewalks and bike paths — a response to a provincial pilot program working on developing a framework to permit such remote-controlled conveyances to operate off-road, including sidewalks.

This all came as a bit of a shock to Ignacio Tartavull, CEO of Toronto-based delivery startup Tiny Mile, whose company relies on its ubiquitous fleet of remotely-controlled, bubble-gum pink robots to transport goods, groceries and food throughout the downtown core.

“We were getting great feedback from the community, and everything was positive,” Tartavull told the Sun.

The move was prompted by concerns from Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, which committee chair and Ward 13 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam described as a “dangerous hazard” to those with impaired vision, mobility or those who rely on mobility devices.
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While none of the reports specifically mention Tiny Mile, a Powerpoint deck presented to the accessibility committee by Transportation Services Manager Ryan Lanyon included a photo of one of the company’s deliverbots as an example of a “micro-utility device,” alongside a “Gita” brand “follower” storage robot, a SnowBot Pro autonomous snowblower, and Xavier, an experimental public order police robot developed by the government of Singapore.

In the two years since the company was founded, Tartavull said their robots — which operate on city sidewalks — have travelled over 100,000 kilometres without a single injury, incident or accident.

While he says he understands the committee’s concerns, their perceptions don’t mesh with what they’re hearing from their clients — many of whom are mobility challenged.
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“What they’re telling us is that they rely on the service, especially now in winter, to receive medications, to receive hot meals, there’s been overwhelming support in the community,” he said. “For us, there’s nothing more important than the safety of everybody.”

On Thursday, Tiny Mile announced they were temporarily taking their robots out of service.

“Safety is our priority,” Tartavull said. “If people see us as a hazard, then we want to give them time to reach out to us and tell us what we can do better.”

Council will consider the ban next week.

bpassifiume@postmedia.com
On Twitter: @bryanpassifiume
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Delivery service hits pause button as Toronto council mulls robot ban

Proposed ban would put Toronto robotic delivery startup out of business
Author of the article:
Bryan Passifiume
Publishing date:
Dec 09, 2021 • 13 hours ago • 2 minute read •
Join the conversation
A Tiny Mile robot making a delivery in downtown Toronto
A Tiny Mile robot making a delivery in downtown Toronto Photo courtesy Tiny Mile
Article content

Toronto’s robotic future may be in jeopardy as a committee recommendation to ban autonomous robots from city sidewalks goes before council next week.
Advertisement
Story continues below
Article content

Last week, the Infrastructure and Environment Committee adopted a report prohibiting ‘micro-utility devices’ from using city-owned sidewalks and bike paths — a response to a provincial pilot program working on developing a framework to permit such remote-controlled conveyances to operate off-road, including sidewalks.

This all came as a bit of a shock to Ignacio Tartavull, CEO of Toronto-based delivery startup Tiny Mile, whose company relies on its ubiquitous fleet of remotely-controlled, bubble-gum pink robots to transport goods, groceries and food throughout the downtown core.

“We were getting great feedback from the community, and everything was positive,” Tartavull told the Sun.

The move was prompted by concerns from Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, which committee chair and Ward 13 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam described as a “dangerous hazard” to those with impaired vision, mobility or those who rely on mobility devices.
Advertisement
Story continues below
Article content

While none of the reports specifically mention Tiny Mile, a Powerpoint deck presented to the accessibility committee by Transportation Services Manager Ryan Lanyon included a photo of one of the company’s deliverbots as an example of a “micro-utility device,” alongside a “Gita” brand “follower” storage robot, a SnowBot Pro autonomous snowblower, and Xavier, an experimental public order police robot developed by the government of Singapore.

In the two years since the company was founded, Tartavull said their robots — which operate on city sidewalks — have travelled over 100,000 kilometres without a single injury, incident or accident.

While he says he understands the committee’s concerns, their perceptions don’t mesh with what they’re hearing from their clients — many of whom are mobility challenged.
Advertisement
Story continues below
Article content

“What they’re telling us is that they rely on the service, especially now in winter, to receive medications, to receive hot meals, there’s been overwhelming support in the community,” he said. “For us, there’s nothing more important than the safety of everybody.”

On Thursday, Tiny Mile announced they were temporarily taking their robots out of service.

“Safety is our priority,” Tartavull said. “If people see us as a hazard, then we want to give them time to reach out to us and tell us what we can do better.”

Council will consider the ban next week.

bpassifiume@postmedia.com
On Twitter: @bryanpassifiume
View attachment 11217
Obviously this guy didn't pay off the right politicians.