State News

Delivery robots considered in state Senate committee

State Rep. Mike Kuglitsch, R-New Berlin, (left) and state Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, (right) with a Starship robot after the technology company gave a demo during a committee hearing. 

The next time you get a notification that your food order has arrived, a robot could be waiting at your door. The state Senate is considering a bill to allow robots to travel on sidewalks while en route with your delivery.

Two Republican legislators are advocating for Wisconsin to adopt the use of delivery robots invented by Starship Technologies for grocery and takeout food delivery.

The 35-pound robot looks like a small box with six wheels and can travel within a two-to-three-mile radius at four mph. It has sensors and cameras to tell where it’s going and if any obstacles are in the way.

The European technology company designed the robots to blend in with pedestrian traffic.

State Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, and state Rep. Mike Kuglitsch, R-New Berlin, told the operations and technology Senate committee Tuesday that the machines offer an innovative, cost-effective solution to delivery hurdles and authorizing the machines would signal that Wisconsin is a technology leader in the Midwest, according to the Associated Press.

The bill would regulate the robots’ range by requiring them to stay on sidewalks rather than roads and be under surveillance by operators. The legislation would also limit the robots’ maximum weight to 80 pounds and maximum speed to 10 mph.

Local governments would also have the freedom to prohibit the robots.

Starship robots have already launched test sites in Washington D.C. and California while Virginia and Idaho recently received the green light for robots traveling on sidewalks. Abroad, the robots have delivered food and groceries in Germany, Switzerland, Estonia and the United Kingdom.

The committee did not vote on the bill Tuesday, but Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, had earlier stated that the bill is a key initiative for Republicans this session, according to the Associated Press.

“We need to allow these vehicles on Wisconsin sidewalks and crosswalks,” Kuglitsch said. “I believe it is our job as legislators to allow innovation and emerging technologies to prosper and be welcome in our state.” 

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