Starting on July 1, 2017, Virginia will allow delivery robots to operate autonomously on crosswalks and sidewalks. The delivery robots can’t travel faster than 10 MPH or weigh more than 50 lbs, but the law doesn’t require the delivery robots to stay within the visual line of sight of a human operator.
Virginia has become the first state in the US to legalize the use of delivery robots on crosswalks and sidewalks.
The law, which takes effect July 1, 2017, allows delivery robots to operate autonomously, but they can’t travel faster than 10 MPH or weigh more than 50 pounds. The law also doesn’t require delivery robots to stay within the visual line of sight of a human operator. However, a human operator needs to remotely monitor the delivery robots at all times in case something goes wrong.
Municipalities throughout Virginia are allowed to regulate how delivery robots will operate locally. Similar bills have been proposed in Florida and Idaho.
Virginia lawmakers Ron Villanueva and Bill DeSteph, along with Estonia-based Starship Technologies, drafted bill SB 1207, which was approved on February 24, 2017. Starship’s delivery robots have already been tested in 50 cities worldwide, but this bill will also open the door for delivery robots, such as San Francisco-based Dispatch, which has tested its Carry delivery robot at Menlo College and CSU Monterey Bay.
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Starship tells Robotics Trends that it doesn’t have any official partnerships lined up in Virginia just yet. However, it may look to extend current partnerships from other tests. Starship, for example, has already testing its delivery robots with Postmates in Washington, D.C. and DoorDash in Redwood City, Calif.
Starship recently raised $17.2 million in a seed funding round led by Daimler AG. Starship’s six-wheeled delivery robots are a little under two feet tall, weigh about 40 lbs, can carry 20 lbs and travel four miles per hour.