Washington State Opens Its Arms to Autonomous Delivery Robots

Washington became the 8th state to legislate the use of autonomous delivery robots.
Jessica Miley

Washington State is set to welcome autonomous delivery robots to its streets becoming the eight American state to do so. The bill allowing the delivery robots to cruise city streets was signed yesterday by the state's governor Jay Inslee.


Fans of the delivery system say the six-wheeled robots help reduce pollution and traffic congestion thanks to their silent electric motors. The delivery bots may also help give local business an edge over big corporations like Amazon - allowing the local companies to deliver quickly and affordably without owning serious delivery infrastructure.

Amazon is, of course, quick to embrace the new technology and had an autonomous robot present for the signing of the bill.

Success yet to be seen

Critics complain that the robots will cause accidents and slow down pedestrian access throughout the city. So far there have been no reported accidents between the robots and humans.

The nifty delivery vehicles use a combination of sensors and cameras, GPS and machine learning to navigate through crowds. They have the ability to map their environment and avoid obstacles autonomously.

The other states to embrace the future of delivery include Virginia, Idaho, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio, Utah, and Arizona. Big tech-loving states like California are trying to deal with heavy bureaucracy before it can boast same day robot delivery.

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Delivery sector fires up

Starship Technologies, who create the autonomous delivery vehicles backed the Washington State's bill. The US and Estonia based company say they are making “local delivery faster, smarter and more cost-efficient.”

Their robots cruise to human walking pace and weigh about 100 pounds. Each delivery unit is mechanically locked and can only be opened by the recipient's smartphone.

The company is already testing a fleet of delivery vehicles at George Mason University in Virginia. Students and teachers can enjoy the efficient delivery of pizza, doughnuts, and coffee across campus.

Twenty-five robots have begun work on the campus that can deliver food ordered from Blaze Pizza, Starbucks and Dunkin’ for a $1.99 fee. Amazon is also testing a fleet of fully-electric autonomous delivery robots in Washington.

The wheeled cooler-sized robots called Amazon Scouts began deliveries in Snohomish County, Washington in January. The robots were developed by Amazon and can roll around their delivery routes at a walking pace.

The six-wheeled boxy bots have an array of sensors that help it navigate the suburbs, detecting obstacles, pets, and people. In a demo video released by the logistics giant, Scout is seen trundling along the sidewalk before stopping in front of its designated delivery location.