Taking over may be an exaggeration, but there will be more robots around the Burgh. Autonomous delivery robots have been legalized and classified as pedestrians in PA. These little guys can weigh up to 550 lbs., even without their cargo! Let’s go over what you need to know before you share the sidewalk.
PA Legalized Autonomous Driving Robots.
Last month, PA became the 12th U.S. state to legalize autonomous delivery robots. These robots are known as PDD (Personal Delivery Devices), and are now legalized to roam the sidewalks as long as they weigh under 550 lbs. without cargo. The Pennsylvania Bill, called SB 1199, is arguably less restrictive than all other states, except Florida. For example, Washington’s bill includes a weight limit of 120 lbs. The speed limit for these bots in PA is 12 mph on the sidewalk and 25 mph on the street. That is pretty speedy considering the average walking speed for humans is 3-4 mph.
What is Starship?
Starship a robotics company focused on local delivery, was the first to rollout the robots on Pittsburgh streets. Starship has its own app that delivers groceries and food directly from restaurants in a four-mile radius. Students on Pitt’s Oakland campus suddenly noticed these two-feet tall bots accompanying them on the sidewalks last year during their pilot program. This did, however, have a few hiccups which included a complaint from a student who uses a wheelchair. She claimed the robot trapped her on the street because it was stopped at a curb cut which is the only place a wheelchair can access a sidewalk.
Will You See One?
While the only delivery robots around the city were the ones in Oakland, others will surely be on the way soon. Amazon and FedEx currently have robots who make deliveries for them in other cities where autonomous delivery robots are legal. The current COVID-19 pandemic has really shined a light on the benefits of contactless delivery which has led to a huge surge in demand for these robots. Others worry about their affect on jobs and the safety of other pedestrians. Regardless of your views, it looks like these (not so little) bots are on their way to a sidewalk near you!