If you live in Downtown Toronto, you’ve probably seen little pink robots on the streets making food deliveries.
Those robots are named Geoffrey and they’re made and operated by a company called Tiny Mile, right here in the 6ix.
However, if a new piece of legislation put forward by the Toronto City Council passes, you won’t be seeing those robots anymore. They would be illegal.
Bill IE26.12 aims to ban what’s referred to as “Micro Utility Devices (MUDs)” from the streets of Toronto (well, more accurately, the curbs). The bill defines micro utility devices. Firstly, they operate using power that’s not solely muscular. Secondly, they’re automated or remotely controlled. Thirdly, they transport themselves and conduct tasks that may include cargo, but not passengers. That’s why this new bill affects Tiny Mile’s delivery fleet.
This bill’s main target is the electric scooters you’ve probably seen all over Toronto. A ban on electric scooters was actually put in place earlier this year… but evidently the ban’s enforcement has been lax, based on the curb situation in some neighborhoods. Hence, the doubling down with a new bill.
The basis for the ban is that MUDs, chiefly electric-scooters, are dangerous, especially to those with disabilities and therefore should not be allowed on the streets of Toronto.
We spoke to Tiny Mile’s CEO, Ignacio Tartavull, about the situation and what will happen if this bill is turned into law.
6ixBuzz: Has the city reached out to you about the ban in any way?
Ignacio Tartavull: We have spoken with councilors over the past few days but it was really after the fact. We were not consulted at all before. This is affecting many different companies — many of them are trying to help people with disabilities. There is a company that’s actually making a robot for blind people to help them navigate the city. That will be shut down if this bill passes. This is really affecting all these local companies that are trying to help the community.
6B: What will happen to Tiny Mile if this ban gets passed?
IT: The issue for Tiny Mile and other companies building devices for people with disabilities that would be affected by this bill is that we are all small companies. All of these companies are local Toronto companies, some of them are comprised of just two people and haven’t even finalized their products yet. Tiny Mile is a little larger; we are about 15 people now but really don’t have the resources to go start from scratch in another city. So a ban like this is not only the worst situation for us, but also for the people with disabilities that we are trying to help.
6B: How do you feel that Tiny Mile is being included in a bill that is mainly being targeted at e-scooters?
IT: We think it’s really unfortunate — something kind of like collateral damage. We know that next year this is going to be a very big discussion. People who want this bill in place have evidence that the police haven’t been enforcing the existing ban and the micro-mobility companies will have evidence that they have been working well in other cities around Toronto. Everyone is prepared.
That is going to be a very big topic and we are just small players trying to help the community. It’s really unfortunate that all the companies and all the work we’ve been doing will be thrown in the garbage for something we have nothing to do with.
6B: Do you have a message towards the Toronto City Council?
IT: The message is that we need evidence-based decisions. This argument that we need to ban these devices because they are bad for people with disabilities, that breaks down very quickly when you see that some of these companies are building devices exclusively to help people with disabilities.
My message is that the city needs to reach out to these companies and see the good that they are doing and study things more deeply and make the proper decisions.
6B: Do you have a message to the general public of Toronto about your current situation?
IT: I think it’s important to be engaged, to follow the way the (Toronto City) Council work. There is an election coming up next year and this is an opportunity to see which councilors take decisions carefully and study things deeply when it comes to making a decision.
6ixBuzz reached out to the Toronto City Council multiple times for comment and did not receive a reply.
Do you think that Tiny Mile’s robots, or even the notorious e-scooters, should be banned from the city of Toronto?