What technologies (consumer or otherwise) should a tech-interested tourist seek out when visiting the forefront of technology, San Francisco?

Some ideas:

  • robot-made coffee
  • home automation, e.g. guesture to open blinds
  • drone transport?
  • autonomous uber/lyft?

Please give links and specific examples/places where possible!

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    Can you name some from recent years which were not for sale world wide within a very short time?
    – Willeke
    Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 13:55
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    @user5783745 self-driving cars are not common in the US. They exist - as test projects for tech companies, but that's it.
    – vidarlo
    Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 14:26
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    I personally think you will likely get as good a list (or as poor a one) when you name a random other main city. But that is because I do not think it still takes months or years for tech to get released across the world, if not in all locations.
    – Willeke
    Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 14:27
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    The biggest chain of robot-made coffee places just closed down the other day, though they say they're going to do airports now. The robot burger joint is still in business though. Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 18:30
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    I'd challenge the "more progressive regulations" bit too. The city has an extremely strong regulatory streak that reacts immediately with legal threats and new rules to things like scooter rental (they were banned for months until a capped permit program was put in place) and sidewalk delivery robots (basically banned except for a limited test that allows not more than 9 in the whole city, with restrictions). Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 18:34

1 Answer 1


As Willeke notes, successful things tend to spread quickly, so there isn't a lot of consumer technology that doesn't make it to other cities soon enough. That said, here are some few ideas that broadly approach the topic:

E-bike share - Bike share systems, even those with electric options, are hardly unique to San Francisco, but the city now has two operators with some of the best shared e-bikes out there (though the Smide system in Switzerland looks glorious): Bay Wheels (Lyft; many of the bikes in this system are currently not electric) and JUMP (Uber). Download the app, find a bike, and go for a ride. The Bay Wheels app has a map that marks bike-friendly streets (your definition of friendly may vary from the city's) with green lines and dots.

Scoot - Electric mopeds available for rent by the minute (also one of the kick scooter rental companies; they're owned by Bird). Download the app, learn to ride, cruise around town, and park on the street within the service area or in one of their garages. A US driver's license is required, but you don't need a motorcycle license.

Creator burgers - Burger-making robot restaurant

Autonomous vehicles - Cruise tests autonomous vehicles in the city and you can sometimes see them around, but there's no public ride-hail service with autonomous vehicles.

VR - There have been a few VR arcades where you can try out virtual reality gear, though the equipment and these businesses are not in any way unique to San Francisco. Several have closed down, but there are a few in operation.

Amazon Go - They started these in Seattle and are in several US cities now, but checkout-free convenience stores. Download the app (or take advantage of the new city law that requires them to offer a cash option), login to your Amazon account, scan in at the entrance gates, grab what you want off the shelf, and walk out. Sensors track your actions, and you'll get a notification with your receipt within a few minutes.

Museums - The Tech Museum is an interactive technology museum. It's located in San Jose, so it will take a bit of a journey from San Francisco. You could combine that trip with a visit to the Computer History Museum and other tech-related things to see in Silicon Valley. NASA Ames Research Center isn't usually open to the public, but has a small gift shop with some exhibits. The Exploratorium is an interactive science museum in San Francisco; Thursday evenings are adults-only nights, with special programming and alcohol available; consider the additional ticket (get them before they're gone) for the Tactile Dome, a unique experience built in the 1970s.

b3ta - A chain store that sells a variety of technology and gadgets. Not unique to SF, and the items are otherwise sold online all over the world, but might be something you'd be interested in seeing.

Tours - Absolutely in no way unique to SF, but there are Segway tour companies. A better option is to rent some Segways yourself from this outfit and go explore the park on your own; try not to hurt yourself if you go off-road. GoCar rents out these awkward little GPS-guided three-wheeled tour vehicles.

Bay Model - A different kind of technology, this is a working hydraulic model of the entire San Francisco Bay-Delta system, originally built in the 50s to study the effects of proposed dams. It's in Sausalito north of the city (across the Golden Gate bridge); see directions.

Cable cars - The technology is nearly 200 years old, but you won't find ones like these anywhere else in the world anymore. Get the MuniMobile app or a Clipper card to save time waiting for tickets. The Cable Car Museum/barn/powerhouse is worth a visit too.

The robot-made coffee chain just closed; there's no home automation options you can't get anywhere else; no drone delivery services; and no autonomous taxi service open to the public.

  • 1
    I would say that about a third or even half the things you mention are also in Lisbon and as I have not studied it in details, the percentage may even be higher. And that is just one random city, I think that the things missing in Lisbon may well be found in many other cities.
    – Willeke
    Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 19:56
  • @Willeke Sure, but I thought a list of things a "tech-interested tourist" might want to see would at least be more useful than rejecting the premise of the question entirely. And I pointed out most of the things that are available elsewhere. Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 20:24
  • Thanks for the (awesome) answer. I have broadened the question to expand beyond consumer tech to anything a tourist might be interested in. Also, in a comment on the question, did you mention sidewalk delivery robots!?
    – stevec
    Commented Jan 12, 2020 at 5:16
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    @user5783745 Thanks! There essentially are no sidewalk delivery robots in SF besides an extremely limited test program (only 9 allowed for the whole city, time limited, in specific areas only, human nearby, etc...). There have been a few other experiments, including Kiwibot in Berkeley, a test by Doordash, and Starship Technologies on several east coast college campuses. Commented Jan 12, 2020 at 7:36
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    I've seen some sidewalk delivery robot tests in downtown Palo Alto, although I'm not sure what the current status of them is. Outside of the Bay Area, the Vdara hotel in Las Vegas also has them for room service delivery. Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 19:51

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