Indiana lawmakers to vote on whether to allow delivery robots

You’re a step closer to getting your next pizza delivery by robot:

The Senate could vote next week to let delivery robots operate alongside pedestrians on streets and sidewalks. It’s not illegal now — Purdue has had robot deliveries for a couple of years. But the bill would explicitly make them legal.

Delivery companies including Amazon and FedEx, and businesses including Pizza Hut, Walgreens, and AutoZone, use robot fleets to make immediate short-haul deliveries. The bots are about the size of a picnic cooler and move about as fast as you can walk, with sensors telling them when they need to back up or go around an obstacle.

Purdue procurement manager Brett Decker says the giant mountains of plowed snow after last month’s storm stumped the robots, but they’ve otherwise operated problem-free. He says the bots have been overwhelmingly popular, with students able to have food or coffee waiting for them when they leave class or when they arrive for their next one.

Jenna Knepper with the local government group AIM says cities and towns are “excited” about the robots, as long as they can set rules on things like where the robots are allowed to operate. The bill authored by Evansville Representative Holli Sullivan (R) would prohibit cities and towns from banning the robots entirely, limiting what they can carry, or regulating their design, but would allow other local rules.

FedEx lobbyist Chris Mitchum says the bill is written broadly to allow new robot technologies, as long as they meet basic operating and safety standards.

The House unanimously approved the bill last month.

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