BOISE - It's something you certainly don't see every day, but it could be coming to a sidewalk near you in the next few months: a delivery robot.
Officials with Starship Technologies met with Idaho lawmakers to discuss House Bill 204, which will regulate these personal delivery devices.
Officials say these robots can deliver just about anything. So far, they've delivered take-out, groceries and packages.
The robot has nine cameras that surround the entire device, and eight sonic sensors that have a situational awareness of about 15 feet. David Catania with Starship Technologies says that means the robot senses humans or street signs and can avoid them. If the robot recognizes an obstacle it slows down and comes to a complete stop.
So how exactly does the delivery process work?
When you're ordering groceries online, you usually set up a time to pick them up. With the delivery robot, you would go through the checkout process and select "Starship" as your delivery device.
With an app on your phone, you'll be able to track your groceries every step of the way. You will also receive a special code that is unique to your order and that will unlock the robot, making sure your food or package don't fall in the wrong hands.
Once you get your package or groceries, the robot goes back to where it came from. Catania says the robot can carry up to 30 pounds, travels at about 4 miles per hour, and is controlled by a human at all times.
"What we're looking at is cutting down on the 20,000-pound trucks that are doing deliveries and cutting down on the number of times you take your 2,000-pound car to pick up 20 pounds of groceries," said Catania. "It weighs about 35 pounds and is capable of doing these round trips in 30 minutes for less than a dollar. So we think it's just a win, win for everyone."
These robots are already successfully operated in the United States in cities like Washington, D.C., and in Redwood City, Calif.. They're also being used internationally in places like the United Kingdom and Switzerland.
Catania says worldwide, the robots have logged more than 30,000 miles of operation and have had more than 3 million human interactions, all without any incidents.
Representative Jason Monks is a co-sponsor of the bill and says this is an exciting time in technology.
"We heard about Amazon talking about drones before on delivery techniques and this is just one more advance that I think we'll see," said Monks. "I think that this is the beginning of a cusp of a lot of different delivery methods that we're going to see."
So what's next? Catania says that Starship Technologies will take the robot to the House, and from there the Senate, one step at a time through the Governor's Office. If all goes according to their plan and legislation passes, they will search for commercial partners.
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