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Pitt pauses testing on food delivery robots after reports of impeded accessibility

The six wheeled Starship Technologies food delivery robots rolling about Oakland have recently been one of the attractions of The University of Pittburgh’s campus. However, the innocent-looking robots are proving more dangerous and inconvenient for people with disabilities than proponents thought.

Emily Ackerman, PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh and wheelchair user, was trapped by one of the robots at an intersection Forbes Avenue earlier this month. According to a now viral tweet from Ackerman, one of the robots had stopped in the middle of a curb cut — the section of an elevated curb that has been cut out to make a level passage between the street and sidewalk — blocking her access to the sidewalk.

“It’s terrifying because there is nothing I can do in the moment” Ackerman tweeted . “I am not going to have my safety compromised because a non-sentient robot isn’t advanced enough to know that it’s putting me in danger.”

The university quickly responded to her tweets, saying they had suspended the testing of the robots until everyone’s safety could be guaranteed, as first reported by The Pitt News.

 

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