Wheeled drones may be coming to a sidewalk near you

Legislation would establish regulatory framework for small, wheeled-robots

WNPA Olympia News Bureau

The automation of life has increased significantly over the past decade. Smartphones, drones, artificial intelligence like Alexa and Siri, and delivery services like Postmates, are beginning to converge. Soon, personal delivery devices could bring favorite meals to your doorstep.

Personal delivery devices are small, wheeled robots that deliver food and other small items to customers with a smartphone. They can travel up to 4 MPH and deliver up to 20 pounds of cargo to pedestrians within a three-mile radius. House Bill 1325, if passed, would establish guidelines for the operation of the devices in Washington state. Several other states and the District of Columbia have already established similar regulations.

The bill would allow rolling drones to operate on sidewalks and crosswalks as long as they weigh less than 120 pounds, have a functioning braking system, a marker containing the name and contact information of the operator, at least $100,000 in liability coverage and is actively controlled or monitored by a remote operator.

Personal delivery devices would not be allowed to transport hazardous materials. Bill sponsor Rep. Shelley Kloba, D-Kirkland, said she is open to adding an amendment to prohibit the transportation of alcohol.

“We certainly don’t want unauthorized access to that,” Kloba said at a Transportation Committee hearing on Jan. 28.

“This is a very exciting bill,” she said. “Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a science fiction novel. Because we have new and interesting technological ways that we can accomplish tasks that are, you know, pretty mundane.”

Starship Enterprises is one company already in the wheeled robot business. Starship’s U.S. Head of Public Affairs David Catania said his company’s devices have logged more than 150,000 miles without a traffic incident and have encountered more than 15 million people. One insurance claim was filed when a device hit a parked car, which Catania attributed to a “robot ambassador” not paying attention. Robot ambassadors are humans who accompany the devices to do public relations on their first roll outs.

Mike Dornfield, a program manager with the Washington State Department of Transportation, said the department supports the bill but would like to increase safety by requiring an audio warning and reduced speed when the devices approach pedestrians and bicyclists.

More in News

Mobile COVID-19 drive-through center opening Monday in Bremerton

Kitsap Public Health District says other mobile sites planned elsewhere in the county

Farmers to Families food boxes available Oct. 28

First-come, first-served supplies provided through SKSD department

Shops in Downtown Poulsbo are gearing up for Halloween with spooky decorations and seasonal wear.
Poulsbo Halloween Hunt takes place of traditional trick or treating

While Poulsbo has had to cancel its traditional Halloween celebration due to… Continue reading

Some going to school, but there’s no room for all

In a presentation to the Kingston Citizens Advisory Council, North Kitsap School… Continue reading

Those without insurance went to the far tent hosted by Kitsap Health District.
Drive-through gives Poulsbo a shot in the arm

Cars lined up along both Third and Moe streets for their occupants… Continue reading

The shops around Port Gamble are gearing up for Halloween, with little Pumpkins lining the walkways and fences.
Port Gamble touts paranormal tours among fun fall events

While it has had to cancel some of its popular fall activities… Continue reading

Info on R-90

Washington voters will decide Nov. 3 whether the controversial sex education bill… Continue reading

Blank Unemployment Benefits formq
Unemployment fell in Kitsap County to 6.8 percent in September

Kitsap County had one of the lowest rates of unemployment in Western… Continue reading

Fishline luncheon to raise funds for programs

Fishline Food Bank and Comprehensive Services in Poulsbo is having a virtual… Continue reading

Most Read