If you live in the state of Washington, you could soon be walking alongside delivery robots on the sidewalk, thanks to new legislation signed today by Washington governor Jay Inslee.

House Bill 1325 creates a regulatory framework that personal delivery devices (a.k.a. delivery robots) must follow. The new legislation defines personal delivery devices as:

  • Intended primarily to transport property on sidewalks and crosswalks
  • Weighing less than one hundred twenty pounds
  • Operating at a maximum speed of six miles per hour
  • Equipped with automated driving technology, including software and hardware, enabling the operation of the device with the support and supervision of a remote personal delivery device operator

It also outlines rules for operating delivery robots including:

  • They must follow the existing rules of the road
  • They can only operate on sidewalks and crosswalks
  • There must be an operator who monitors and can take control of the robot
  • The robots themselves must be marked with the owner’s name and contact information
  • The robot must have brakes
  • The robot must have front and back lights for making deliveries from sunset to sunrise

With today’s signing, Washington becomes the eighth state to allow robot deliveries statewide, following Virginia, Idaho, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio, Utah and Arizona. Robot delivery company Starship told us of today’s signing and said via email that it had worked with the state legislature to develop the regulations.

These types of robots are the perfect size for delivering meals (which. is. awesome.), but Seattle-ites probably won’t be able to get a burrito by ‘bot unless they’re a student at one of the local colleges. Companies like Starship and Kiwi have started out by deploying delivery bots to college and corporate campuses. Starship has programs running with George Mason University and Northern Arizona University. For its part, Kiwi just expanded to fifteen colleges across the country.

Now that personal delivery device regulations in place, one has to wonder if Amazon will ramp up its own robot ambitions. The company started testing out its Scout robot in the Seattle suburb of Sammamish in January this year, and the company has a patent for a delivery robot that would live at your house. Having a clear set of guidelines could give Amazon the go-ahead to go robot delivery wild in its home state.

Though I live in a suburb of Seattle, my town is pretty rural and hilly and sadly probably won’t get delivery robots anytime soon. All the more reason to make a trip to the big city, I guess.

If you want to know more about Starship and the complexities of building robots that deliver your food, check out this panel I moderated with Ryan Tuohy, Senior VP of Business Development at Starship, during our recent ArticulATE food robotics conference.

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