This summer, Virginia may start to look a bit more like the Mos Eisley spaceport. Not because it will become a sand-covered, wretched hive of scum and villainy, but because of the new law about delivery robots.
Starting July 1st, delivery robots will be able to use sidewalks and crosswalks in Virginia, so long as the don’t travel faster than 10 miles per hour or exceed 50 pounds. The legislation, advised by an Estonian robotics company that specializes in ground delivery called Starship Technologies, these little robots to navigate the streets autonomously. However, to reduce collisions, Virginia requires the delivery company to monitor them remotely. Also, if the droids become enough of a problem, the law can be amended or completely overturned by local councils.
Starship had been testing the robots since January, and will be be the first to take advantage of the new law. But other delivery companies like Amazon and Grubhub are hot on their trail, having sent letters supporting the law and expressing their interest. Companies such as Marble and Dispatch are also developing their own robots for the sidewalk.
While delivery drones have received plenty of attention, these rolling robots seem immediately more charming and personable. Instead of airborne deliverymen, imagine a bunch of little R2-D2s and BB-8s rolling around the streets delivering mail; it’s almost cute. Of course, compared to New York City, Virginia seems like a reasonable place to introduce the robots. I can’t picture delivery droids fitting in very well on the already overcrowded NYC sidewalks. They’d likely be trampled or doused in coffee as they bump into commuters. But for less aggressively metropolitan areas, these droids could be an interesting addition.