Got a permit for that delivery robot? Washington lawmakers consider rules

Jan 29, 2019, 6:24 AM

It wasn’t exactly the same as “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” but on Monday a little package delivery robot rolled into the Washington State Capitol and strutted its stuff before onlookers and lawmakers.

The demonstration was part of a hearing for a proposed bill that would place restrictions on the autonomous robots, including restricting their weight, limiting them to sidewalks, and requiring human monitoring — so they don’t try to take over the world. It also requires them to have their own insurance, in case two of the delivery robots crash into each other and need to exchange information.

The idea is to fill in a legal grey area for the robots, which seem to negotiate as space between motor vehicles and pedestrians, reports KIRO 7.

RELATED: Amazon testing little delivery robots in Snohomish County

You might notice a delivery robot or two roaming around Snohomish County these days. That’s where Amazon is already in the process of testing them. The delivery robot that rolled into the capitol Monday is visually similar to Amazon’s model, but belonged to Starship Technologies. That company is introducing them in multiple states. While the applications are endless, the robots are initially intended to mainly deliver packages and groceries, but could soon move onto other types of deliveries, like laundry and hot food.

Each device is a little six-wheeled, self-driving robot that can deliver packages to shoppers’ houses, and even have the ability to dodge pets and pedestrians and probably other robots. What they can’t do is completely operate without human help, or climb up stairs, so customers in most cases will have to come outside to the sidewalk and grab the package after the robot’s hatch opens.

It’s not the same as R2-D2 launching Luke his lightsaber, but it’s a start.

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Got a permit for that delivery robot? Washington lawmakers consider rules