For Washingtonians, Robot Food Deliveries May Be Here to Stay


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Feel like a fresh pizza delivered by… a small robot? Soon sidewalk privileges for personal delivery robots—which are already delivering carryout to hungry customers around Washington—may be permanent.

The Council of the District of Columbia has voted to approve a bill that would legalize the robots within city limits. The bill awaits a second council vote, followed by the mayor’s signature.

The bill would direct the District Department of Transportation to issue permits for companies to operate delivery robots traveling at a maximum speed of 10 miles per hour.

Washington is one of several cities to have tested delivery robots under pilot programs. Residents near the Logan Circle neighborhood have been spotting since last year the black-and-white robots made by Estonia-based Starship Technologies Inc., a leader in the emerging industry. Those robots deliver goods in under 30 minutes within a two-mile radius, according to Starship’s website.

The city council is likely to complete the second vote May 1, Kelly Whittier, a spokeswoman for Councilmember Mary M. Cheh, the bill’s sponsor, told Bloomberg Law. After that, the city may soon join six states, including Virginia, that have already legalized automated food deliveries.

So, will that be mushroom or extra cheese?