Wisconsin becomes the third state to legalize the use of automated delivery robots in the United States, after its governor, Scott Walker, signs a new law regulating the use of the said devices. Wisconsin's approval follows the states of Idaho and Virginia in enacting laws that allow the use of delivery robots. A delivery robot, or personal delivery device as stated in Wisconsin's law, is defined as any electronically powered device that weighs less than 80 pounds, runs at speeds of less than 10mph, utilizes sidewalks to transport cargo, and operates even without direct supervision from an operator.
The delivery robots are controlled by a human operator, which ensures that the device remains under control when something goes wrong and that the device does not break any existing pedestrian law. In addition, the law stipulates that the personal delivery device should not go into roadways and should be visible during hours of darkness. Meanwhile, drivers are reminded that once delivery robots hit the streets, the state law provides the robots with the same right-of-way as pedestrians. The proposal to enact laws that allow the use of delivery robots were lobbied by Starship Technologies, a company that makes delivery robots for food and other items sold online. There are some major concerns, however, with regards to a single company lobbying for regulation for an entire line of products. In the case of Wisconsin law, it may actually prohibit the use of delivery robots from Marble, a competitor of Starship Technologies.
The delivery robots currently being tested by Marble in San Francisco currently weighs more than 80 pounds, which is above the limit imposed by the Wisconsin law. Interestingly, the company which lobbied the legislation for Wisconsin, Idaho, and Virginia has yet to operate in these areas. Given the increasing demand to automate the delivery services, more and more companies are getting involved in the development of automated delivery devices like delivery robots and drones. Aside from Starship Technologies, other companies that are involved in the development of delivery robots include Marble and Dispatch. Meanwhile, Google is developing systems like navigation platforms that will enable the use of drones to deliver cargo automatically.