Autonomous Delivery Robots Are Now Legal In Wisconsin

Wisconsin is the third state, after Virginia and Idaho, to legalize the use of the autonomous delivery robots in the United States. Governor Scott Walker signed the bill on June 21st. Under Wisconsin’s law, a delivery robot is defined as any electronically powered device that weighs less than 80 pounds, travels at speed of less than 10 mph and utilizes sidewalks to transport cargo. They are classified as pedestrians and thus have similar laws to them. They are not allowed to go onto the roadways, must be visible during dark hours and will be given the same right-of-way as pedestrians at intersections. Thus, the delivery robots must be controlled by a human operator to ensure that it does not break any pedestrian law. The laws imposed in Wisconsin are similar to those in Virginia and Idaho. Virginia, however, stated that the robots cannot weigh more than 50 pounds. Idaho similar to Wisconsin requires the robot to be less than 80 pounds.

The initiative to enact laws to allow delivery robots was petitioned by Starship Technologies. Starship Technologies is a Europe-based company that manufactures delivery robots for food specifically Domino’s Pizza and other items sold online. Although it is yet to function in Virginia and Idaho, in hindsight Starship is the only company that can operate in all three states as it meets all the briefs set forth by the states’ laws. The Starship robot (Figure 1) is 6-wheeled and travels at an average 4 mph and weighs under 40 pounds.

The restrictions placed on the delivery robot by the law might prohibit Starship’s competitor, Marble, from functioning in the aforementioned states. Marble’s robot, currently undergoing testing, weighs more than 80 pounds, which is above the limit posted by Wisconsin and other states. The testing is taking place in San Francisco and the company hopes to lobby a bill to regulate the use of the delivery robot in the state. Dispatch, another competitor, is testing their robots which supposedly weighs more than 55 pounds which exceed the limits set by Virginia. These differences might ultimately benefit Starship as they would likely be the only company to function in these states.

Given that the demand for autonomous delivery is increasing, there is a steep rise of the delivery robots. Currently, the key players in the United States are Starship, Marble, and Dispatch among which only Starship has started to function on the roads. Upcoming companies have to now keep in mind these laws set forth by the states and appropriately design their robots.

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