Robots could be rolling down Idaho sidewalks delivering everything from groceries to books and clothes if lawmakers greenlight a pending bill.
The company behind the effort is Starship Technologies Inc., a European tech company based in London and Estonia. It was launched by two co-founders of Skype, Janus Friis and Ahti Heinla, who is Starship’s CEO.
“As you know, there has been a dramatic increase in what people want delivered and how often,” lobbyist Teresa Molitor told the House State Affairs Committee. “E-commerce is growing about 10 percent a year, and the delivery industry cannot keep up with the demand.
Molitor said the delivery robots already are operating in cities in Europe, along with Washington, D.C., and in Redwood City, California. “The Starship robot yields to pedestrians, travels at the speed of pedestrians, and is constantly monitored by the operator,” she said. “It can only be unlocked by the end user.”
Her bill would add the delivery robots to the section of Idaho law that now allows motorized wheelchairs and Segways to travel on sidewalks. According to the company’s website, the robot can carry two bags of groceries and is 22 inches tall.
In a news release, Heinla, the CEO, said the robots are “intended to slip seamlessly and safely into the environment,” traveling about 4 mph. “They don’t fly – these are not drones. They travel on pavements/sidewalks, blending safely in with pedestrian traffic.”
Molitor said when the bill comes up for a committee hearing, Starship plans to send a robot and operator to Idaho to demonstrate it. After several questions from lawmakers, the committee voted unanimously to introduce the bill, clearing the way for a hearing.