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Bill seeks to modify Utah traffic code to permit robots to roam sidewalks

Preston Cathcart, KSL

Bill seeks to modify Utah traffic code to permit robots to roam sidewalks

By Preston Cathcart, KSL | Posted - Feb. 2, 2018 at 8:45 a.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would modify Utah traffic code to permit automated personal delivery robots to roam sidewalks advanced through a House committee by a unanimous vote Wednesday.

"Today, we'd like to present a bill that deals with an upcoming technology and industry," the bill's sponsor, Rep. Stewart Barlow, R-Fruit Heights, told the House Transportation Committee.

At Barlow's signal, a young man with a remote control drove one such personal delivery device into the room to present it before the committee.

"These things haul," Barlow said. "They do about 4 mph."

"It generally has a range of about 3 miles, but most of the deliveries that they use with this is between a mile and a mile and a half," he said.

Barlow said such delivery robots operate entirely on the sidewalks.

"It operates autonomously up to 99 percent of the time," he said.

David Catania, head of public affairs for Starship Technologies, which owns the robot that was on display, said his company was founded by the same individuals behind Skype, the software application for telecommunication over the internet.

Catania gave a demonstration to the committee of how the robot is designed to slow down or stop when it detects people.

"It's kind of like an Uber for things,'" he said.

Such personal delivery robots fall under the legal definition of an automobile, so HB217 is designed to "carve out" a safe space in the legal code for these robots to operate.

The committee advanced the bill unanimously. It now heads to the full House for further debate.

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Preston Cathcart

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