Should sidewalk robots have legal rights as pedestrians? – FindLaw


WASHINGTON, DC - April 8: Starship Technologies delivery robot crosses the street as locals pass by April 8, 2020 in the Chevy Chase neighborhood of Washington, DC.  Local Broad Branch Market is collaborating with the Starship to provide grocery and take-out food delivery by autonomous robots to adjacent areas amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  (Photo by Alex Wong / Getty Images)

At what stage does a robot become a human?

There were a lot of articles, scholarly and otherwise, that asked this question. Will a robot become a real person when it achieves self-awareness? Think independently? The development of actual feelings?

But do not worry. We will not go into the intricacies of theoretical speculation here.

What we have been Be We’re going to talk about something more tangible here: delivery robots, also known as “personal delivery devices” or PDDs.

You may have already seen them skiing along a sidewalk in a city where the state has permitted their use. There isn’t much to see – basically, just a box on wheels – so you’ll be forgiven for suspecting these meager things pose any kind of existential threat to society.

But if you’re the kind of person whose doubts are turning in the opposite direction, you might be interested in how laws in these countries regulate delivery robots. You might be interested how they started giving robots something like a legal personality. You might be wondering if these were the first appearances of an Overlord Robot, but … well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

They are spread across the ground

exist 12 of these states nowAccording to Axios, enabling laws usually talk about equipping delivery robots with the same types of mobility as human pedestrians. Virginia LawFor example, he says that a PDD operating on a sidewalk or footpath “should have all the rights and responsibilities that apply to pedestrians in the same circumstances.”

Virginia’s law, passed in 2017, was the first of its kind in the country. The most recent passed by it Pennsylvania In late 2020, it has stronger language: “Personal delivery device must be regulated as a pedestrian and will not be considered a vehicle.”

It would be wise at this point to go back a step to describing these PDDs. They do not look like a human. Sure, they “see” to avoid falling into things, but they are fundamentally Boxes on wheels.

Are they pedestrians?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a pedestrian as “a person walking on his feet.” In other words, a walker is a human being – likely to have feet and legs.

But a box on wheels?

Pavement path cleaning for robots

So it appears that Pennsylvania lawmakers, at least, have expanded this definition to include places that did not exist before.

The question is: Why?

The shortest answer is that this is the easiest way to organize a moving box that shares space with real humans.

Amazon (which also talks about drone deliveries) has developed its first dock delivery robot, searchlight, In use in early 2019 in Snohomish County, Washington, and expanded to several other cities. A year later, FedEx launched the Same day bot, In cooperation with many retailers, including Pizza Hut, Target, and Walmart.

Then, with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, The demand for delivery robots has exploded. For consumers, robots provide convenience, and for delivery companies (and retailers), they have offered a way to mitigate the “last mile” problem. Especially in densely populated areas, delivery trucks have problems with heavy traffic and parking restrictions. With a fleet of dock delivery robots leaving the collection center, the job of getting orders for customers becomes much easier.

Friction between humans and robots

While this may be great for retailers and buyers, walkers – of human diversity, may not be much appreciated. Starship Technologies, the leader in sidewalk robots, has admitted that people have done just that Kick their product.

Another manufacturer, Kiwibot, has responded to potential hostility by trying to make delivery robots look attractive, with An animated digital face. “(B) We make cute robots that aren’t too big,” says David Rodriguez, the company‚Äôs business director.

In fact, they don’t look very offensive. The famous Starship Technology robots, which resemble a picnic cooler on six wheels, weigh only 44 pounds and have a top speed of 3.7 mph.

But be prepared. Amazon and FedEx Successful pressure on state legislatures To allow larger and faster delivery robots and even prevent municipalities from creating their own robot regulations. Wired reported that these two companies lobbied for bills in more than a dozen states last year, with six countries becoming laws.

Wired reports, “The bills contain similar but not identical language. They allow robots to travel on some sidewalks at speeds of up to 10 mph (in North Carolina). Some include weight limits (200 pounds in Idaho and Missouri); others do not.” Deals with the weight of robots at all (yota) “.

Incidentally, the Wired article was written before Pennsylvania passed its PDD, which allows the use of robots weighing up to 550 pounds.

These higher weight limits may have a somewhat different category of PDD: those designed for bike lanes. REV-1 Refraction for Artificial IntelligenceFor example, it measures 4 feet 3 feet by 2 feet wide, can carry 280 pounds of cargo, and can move 15 mph. Conflicts with cyclists seem inevitable.

The new normal

These enablement efforts stand in contrast to those of electric scooter rentals two years ago, as companies unleashed them and then backed off to allow the chips to fall where they could.

Although delivery companies seem more responsible this way, it seems as if pedestrians have another sophisticated battle on their hands. As we slowly emerge from the limitations of the pandemic, it will only get more severe.

Futurist Bernard Marr wrote in his book: “After controlling the outbreak, we will not return to normal but will stabilize the new normal.” Forbes. “This new normal will likely have autonomous delivery robots in workplaces, public places, and on our streets.”

Sure, some people would be angry enough to kick them, driven by the same impulse that made them throw scooters into rivers. However, the most terrifying part about robotics is looking forward to the day when it will not be considered as property damage. The scary part is when this is considered assault.

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