Food Delivery Goes High-Tech With Personal Robots


When you open the door for your next pizza delivery, don’t be too surprised if you’re greeted by a robot.

Personal delivery robots are taking to the sidewalks in a handful of U.S. cities, signaling what could become the next new way for Americans to receive everything from food takeout to mailed packages.  The technology already faces its first wave of regulation from municipalities and states as companies continue to develop the nearly autonomous machines, tech reporter Alexis Kramer said in the latest episode of Bloomberg BNA’s Code and Conduit podcast.

Estonia-based Starship Technologies Inc. and a handful of other companies are building personal delivery robots and marketing them primarily to deliver restaurant takeout to nearby customers. The 95-percent autonomous Starship robots move at pedestrian speed and can carry items to destinations within a 3-mile radius.

Pilot programs for the robots are underway in Washington, D.C. and three California cities as local governments consider permanently legalizing and regulating the robots. Meanwhile, San Francisco is considering banning the technology, citing narrow, crowded sidewalks as a safety concern.

A diverse set of inconsistent rules could make it difficult for companies like Starship to operate robots across city lines, Kramer said. Virginia and Wisconsin already have laws regulating the technology and prohibiting cities from adopting additional rules, in an effort to prevent a patchwork of regulation. But Idaho’s delivery robot law allows cities to set additional parameters.


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