Your next delivery person may be a robot. Robots have joined drones as popular options being tested by companies to reduce costs and automate the delivery of goods. And unlike drones, legislators have fewer objections to having robots on the streets. Within less than a month, two states have already passed laws allowing robots to make deliveries starting July 1.
Yesterday, Idaho became the second state after Virginia to allow delivery by robot. According to Idaho's law, personal delivery robots weighing no more than 80 pounds and traveling at less than 10 miles per hour are allowed to traverse sidewalks and crosswalks to deliver goods. Virginia's law stipulates that robots should weigh no more than 50 pounds. Both states require a remote human operator to monitor the robot's motion. (See also: 3 Ways Robots Affect the Economy.)
When the idea of delivery by drones was introduced, it generated a plethora of concerns related to privacy and navigation in cities with tall buildings. However, robots seem to have evoked curiosity rather than concern among lawmakers. Rep. Ron Villaneuva in Virginia told tech publication Recode that there was no pushback to the legislation. Instead, there was "intrigue and curiosity about the technology, what the application would be, how it would benefit the citizens." (See also: Delivery by Drone: New Rules for Flights.)
Estonia-based startup Starship Technologies is already testing such robots in California and Washington D.C. According to a blog post published on Gizmodo, the company's robots have six wheels, use self-driving technology (they are equipped with nine cameras) and can carry up to 40 pounds. They travel at 4 miles per hours and take between 5 minutes to 30 minutes for a delivery from nearby shops, according to the company. (See also: Introducing the New Starship Technologies Delivery Robot.)
E-commerce behemoth Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) is already testing delivery by drones. However, related regulations have significantly hindered its attempts to introduce the technology. The Seattle-based company was one of the signatories supporting the recently introduced robot delivery laws. (See also: Your Next Robot Might Look Just Like Jeff Bezos.)
Alphabet Inc. (GOOG) subsidiary Boston Robotics has also gotten in on the act. At a conference in Barcelona last December, the company debuted Spot Mini, a four-legged robot that can navigate complex pathways, such as stairs, and lift heavy objects without assistance. The company showed experiments having robots carry objects to the front door of homes. According to Zion Market Research, the market for service robots is expected to reach $24.1 billion by 2022.
The Recode report mentions Florida as the next state that may pass similar legislation. (See also: Investing in Robotics Through ETFs and Stocks.)