Ohio's new budget signed by Governor John Kasich on Friday contains a provision that allows unmanned delivery robots to operate on sidewalks and in crosswalks throughout the state. The move makes Ohio the fifth U.S. state to permit the use of such creations in the public, with the previous four being Virginia, Wisconsin, Idaho, and Florida, the latter one of which just allowed delivery robots last week. Much like the previous four statutes, the Ohio one was promoted by robotics startup Starship Technologies. The London, United Kingdom-based robot manufacturer already has a portfolio of such creations designed to deliver groceries and a number of other goods.
All of the company's robots are manufactured in Estonia and are significantly lighter and more portable than the majority of their competitors, which is an important factor in the newly introduced legislation. Much like the previous four states, Ohio permitted the use of unmanned delivery robots on sidewalks so long as such creations are lighter than 90 pounds, which those made by Starship Technologies are. The company's competitors will likely have to revise their designs or push for new legislation if they're hoping to start operating in Ohio and other states in the future. None of the new bills are expected to have an immediate effect on public life, as not even Starship Technologies currently has active robots in any of the aforementioned states. However, the startup is hoping to launch a pilot program in Florida later this year and will likely expand its operations to more regions in the near future.
Just like the other states that recently allowed unmanned robots to operate on sidewalks, Ohio mandates that all such devices need to under constant surveillance from their creators who should be able to instantly take control in case of any problems. It's currently unclear how Starship Technologies is planning to protect its robots from theft and vandalization, something that industry watchers predict will be a problem in major urban areas. An update on the company's robotics and lobbying efforts is expected to follow in the coming months, presumably no later than fall when its Florida tests are set to begin at the latest.