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Washington State Regulators Move Forward to Allow Delivery Bots on Sidewalks

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【Summary】Washington is currently the eighth US state to open its doors to Personal Delivery Devices (PDD). Other states that permit the use of delivery bots in public locations include: Virginia, Idaho, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio, Utah and Arizona.

Michael Cheng    May 04, 2019 11:00 AM PT
Washington State Regulators Move Forward to Allow Delivery Bots on Sidewalks

For people living in Washington, daily interaction with delivery pods might be just around the corner. Leading the proliferation of compact bots in the state is Governor Jay Inslee, who signed a bill (House Bill 1325) that aims to create a regulatory framework for personal delivery units.

Washington is currently the eighth US state to open its doors to Personal Delivery Devices (PDD). Other states that permit the use of delivery bots in public locations include: Virginia, Idaho, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio, Utah and Arizona. Virginia was the first to allow PDDs to operate on sidewalks next to pedestrians.

House Bill 1325

The signing of House Bill 1325 is a huge milestone for companies developing commercial PDDs in Washington. With transparent operating guidelines now available, startups can build delivery bots with specifications to match such standards. The regulations are also designed to protect pedestrians, by imposing limitations on speed and areas of deployment.

San Francisco-based robotics startup Starship Technologies assisted local lawmakers in developing the guidelines. The company has completed more than 50,000 deliveries (to date) and is expected to expand its presence in the state, due to the favorable regulatory landscape.

"We'd like to thank Representative Shelley Kloba, Senator Marko Liias and Governor Jay Inslee for their support on this bill," said Lex Bayer, CEO of Starship Technologies.

"They appreciate how technology will shape our future and the positive impact delivery robots will have on the people of Washington, local businesses and the environment. We look forward to becoming a valued part of the community."

Interestingly, Amazon will also benefit from the signing of House Bill 1325. With headquarters in Seattle, the online retail heavyweight has been testing its own fleet of personal delivery units (Amazon Scout). The compact pods look like Starship's electrified delivery bots, but without a flag. Both Amazon and Starship were present at the signing of the bill.

Guidelines for Delivery Robots

Under the new regulations, local businesses in Washington using delivery bots to support daily operations must adhere to several guidelines. On sidewalks, the units are limited to a maximum traveling speed of six miles per hour. To ensure priority is given to people, the bots are required to yield to pedestrians. This defensive approach to mobility implies that the delivery pods will be passively integrated with local cities in the state. Doubling down on this safety measure is the requirement to have effective braking features and lights.

To prevent collisions on busy roads, the units are only allowed to cross the street at crosswalks. Furthermore, the pods cannot weigh more than 120 pounds (not including items for delivery).

Next, the personal delivery bots must be monitored by a remote operator, which includes the use of ID numbers for tracking. The company deploying the pods is also required to have an insurance policy that covers liability (minimum $100,000).

"Now that personal delivery device regulations in place, one has to wonder if Amazon will ramp up its own robot ambitions," highlighted Chris Albrecht, Managing Editor at The Spoon.

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