The City Council revised on Dec. 17 the rules for the city's nascent program for autonomous robots, known as "personal delivery devices" (PDDs). The program, which made its debut this year, has been rolling out slowly, with three companies obtaining permits and performing some test deliveries, according to a new report from the Public Works Department.
But while none of the robots have been active recently, according to staff, one company is trying to push the program's boundaries. Starship Technologies, which operates throughout the Bay Area, has requested that the city extend its one-year pilot program and the operating area for the robots, which were initially limited to downtown and California Avenue.
The expanded area, which the council approved, also includes Stanford Shopping Center, the Stanford University Medical Center and the Stanford West apartment complex west of Sand Hill Road. Public Works staff concurred in the report that these areas "are suitable for PDD operations" and that they should be made available to all autonomous-robot companies that wish to operate in Palo Alto.
Starship Technologies also requested the city raise the speed limit for its robots. The city's initial regulations established a speed limit of 2.4 mph, which is considered slow walking speed. Starship Technologies has requested an increase to 5 mph, consistent with its operations in other Bay Area jurisdictions.
To date, the company robots have traveled more than 13,000 miles and have performed more than 7,000 deliveries throughout the region without safety incidents or technology failures, according to Public Works. In Palo Alto, the company's robots have traveled more than 1,200 miles and performed more than 250 deliveries without incidents or failures, the report states.
Though the city has agreed to the measures proposed by Starship Technologies, the local program remains in place only on an interim basis. The Public Works report noted that there has not been enough robot activity to date to determine whether permanent regulations should be adopted.
The council approved the new rules for autonomous robots by a vote of 8-1, with Councilwoman Lydia Kou dissenting. Kou said she objected to the lack of information the council received since the pilot program was created in late 2017.
Police arrest man for early-morning sexual assault
A man accused of sexually assaulting a woman right after she unloaded items from her car in Palo Alto early Saturday morning was arrested Wednesday afternoon, police said.
The man, 28-year-old Daniel Eduardo Alvarez East Palo Alto, allegedly committed the assault around 3:30 a.m. Saturday in the 2500 block of El Camino Real near Grant Avenue, according to a police press release. The woman, who is in her 30s, was removing items from her car to give to a friend at an apartment complex that morning. As she walked over to meet the friend she felt someone grab her buttocks.
She turned around to find a man who pushed her to the ground. He straddled her, touched her genitals over her clothing and made threats if she yelled, according to police.
Her boyfriend heard her scream, interrupted the assault and the man fled south on El Camino Real, police said.
On Sunday, detectives identified Alvarez as the alleged attacker and later that evening secured an arrest warrant for assault to commit a sex offense, criminal threats, false imprisonment and sexual battery. With help from Menlo Park police officers in East Palo Alto, detectives found his red 1993 Toyota Corolla empty in the 800 block of East Bayshore Road and found Alvarez nearby inside a home in the 1100 block of Saratoga Avenue.
Alvarez was arrested without incident and booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail in San Jose on the warrant, police said. He was also booked for an outstanding misdemeanor warrant for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in San Mateo County.
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