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Santa Monica City Council is expected to institute a one-year moratorium on the operation of autonomous delivery vehicles on city sidewalks and other pedestrian pathways at their next meeting.

In August, a company called CyanRobotics deployed autonomous, electrified delivery vehicles on city sidewalks and pedestrian paths of travel. The company offered contactless delivery options from noon to 10 p.m. seven days a week to help residents receive everything from sunscreen to ice cream, according to the company’s Instagram posts, which featured little, four-wheeled robots at popular Santa Monica sites like the pier and Palisades Park.

However, a recently released staff report said several members of the public complained that the devices obstructed sidewalks and created difficulties for people who had to navigate around the devices; and since the company did not apply for a business license prior to deploying its devices, staff sent the company a cease and desist letter, which forced the company to immediately stop all deployments in the city.

“Additionally, while only one company thus far has deployed the devices, staff immediately became concerned with the potential proliferation of devices on sidewalks deployed by multiple companies,” the report reads. So, officials have sought to determine how current Municipal Code provisions could be enforced against companies who operate devices in a violative manner.

A review of the risks associated with operating autonomous delivery devices on sidewalks has also been undertaken and staff believes the operation of such devices without an adequate regulatory framework poses a risk to local pedestrians, bicyclists, scooter users, and drivers. Robots delivering goods and groceries also threaten to clutter sidewalks and crossings, which could place an undue burden on City enforcement services. As a result, the report states, “the City maintains a compelling interest in protecting the public by temporarily prohibiting the deployment and operation of these devices on sidewalks and pedestrian paths of travel.”

But the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and a current priority to maintain a clean and safe city has led staff to believe a one-year moratorium on the deployment of autonomous vehicles is the best action for the present.

The subject will continue to be studied and regulations could come back earlier if there is capacity or new information, according to the report.

Other Council Discussions

When councilmembers meet Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. via Zoom, they are also expected to discuss existing litigation relating to the CVRA case that will soon be taken up by the California Supreme Court. City Manager Lane Dilg will also provide an update on the city’s economic recovery efforts, according to the agenda, which be accessed online at