A robot maker has helped pass state laws to permit delivery bots on sidewalks, but competitors could have difficulty complying with the new regulations, according to Recode.
Starship Technologies, an Estonian startup that makes autonomous delivery robots, successfully helped pass laws in Virginia and Idaho that allow robots to make deliveries without being controlled by humans. The company is also helping lawmakers pass similar bills in Florida and Wisconsin.
However, the legislation in Virginia and Idaho, favor Starship's small, lightweight bots.
In Virginia, the law permits only autonomous bots that weigh 50 pounds or less to drive on the sidewalk. In Idaho, the weight limit is 80 pounds, Recode reports. Starship's robot weighs 40 pounds, is knee-high, and cruises at 4 mph as nine cameras, GPS, and artificial intelligence software pilot the rover. The company has been tested in cities across Europe and running a pilot program in Washington, D.C., and Redwood City, California.
Competitors such as Marble, which has been delivering food in San Francisco, has a robot that weighs more than 80 pounds, which means it cannot operate in Idaho or Virginia. Another autonomous bot, the Gita, made by scooter company Vespa, weighs 70 pounds.
Matt Delaney, the CEO of Marble, told Recode that he believes the laws' weight limits are unreasonable.
Allan Martinson, Starship's chief operating officer, told Recode that the weight limits were based on "safety estimates" and not meant to block competition.
Rep. Ron Villanueva of Virginia, one of the lawmakers who helped pass the law in Virginia, says the 50-pound weight limit was written in to make sure pedestrians feel safe on the sidewalk.
The laws allow local municipalities to change the weight limit and other details, but the laws currently in place favor Starship.