Estonia and a number of other countries are ready to embrace delivery bots; other places not so much. Will these adorable bots be rolling down a street near you? (Photo via Starship Technologies)
It was only a few years ago, where the thought of having autonomous delivery drones made us panic about the robot take over. Now, more people are getting used to the idea, including government officials. Recently, state legislatures in Virginia and Idaho granted permission to Starship Technologies’ small delivery bots to operate on sidewalks. Even Estonia is getting in on the action. The country passed the measure 86 to 0 in parliament this month making them the first country in the EU to accept these tiny bots.
But before these little guys start roaming the streets, there are stipulations they have to abide by. The robots have to remain small; it can’t be taller than one meter, longer than 1.2 meters, or weigh more than 50 kilograms. In addition, the robots have to be white, equipped with red rear reflectors and lights to make them easy to spot at night. For Starship Technologies, this shouldn’t be an issue seeing as their robots seem to perfectly fit this criteria.
Though more governments are open to the idea of delivery drones, there are still plenty who see it as a red flag. Norman Yee, San Francisco’s city supervisor, proposed legislation to keep these bots off the streets seeing it as a potential threat to public safety. The city already bans bikes and skateboards from sidewalks, so preventing a bot from rolling down the street is no surprise. Officials are worried these bots will take over the sidewalk and make it difficult for kids, seniors, and people with disabilities to get out of the way leading to some nasty accidents.
Also, there are still several things to consider when bringing up the issue, like security. Though some robots come equipped with an alarm system and camera to stop thieves, it won’t stop people who want to try and take them or even destroy them. And, of course, there may even be hackers who want to crack into the system. Not only that, if larger companies want to take advantage of the technology, they require a larger fleet. Where and how would the bots be stored? These are all issues cities are considering before offering their approval.
Despite the downsides, the delivery robots keep coming. Marble and Yelp are already employing the little bots for food deliveries, and Dispatch is relying on them for home deliveries. And giants Amazon and Google are looking to implement delivery drones as one of their many services. Companies like Starship Technologies, are making progress with their implementation, but it will be awhile before everyone allows these bots to roam the sidewalks.