- The Dallas City Council was briefed last Wednesday on a six-month pilot program that would allow companies to deploy up to 20 robotic delivery devices on the city's streets, as reported by Dallas News and others.
- The pilot would allow fleets of electronically powered, autonomous devices, no more than 26 inches wide and 48 inches high, with maximum speeds of 5 miles per hour. So far, San Francisco-based Marble is the first company to express interest in the pilot.
- The City Council is expected to take a formal vote this week on the program, according to NBCDFW. If approved, Marble says it will deploy its delivery bots on Nov. 1.
As streets become inundated with new forms of transportation and infrastructure, delivery robots are just a part of the latest wave of tech to face city councils. Washington, DC welcomed the expanded deployment of Starship delivery robots following a 2016 pilot — the robotics company partnered with DoorDash and Postmates to bring food deliveries to city residents — and other cities such as Austin, TX have also approved delivery robot pilot programs.
San Francisco is one such city that tested the delivery robot trend, but didn't see overwhelming success. In December 2017, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to severely restrict the devices and crack down on the zones in which the robots could operate. At the time of the vote, Supervisor Norman Yee told the Board, "Maybe five years from now, when we have 20,000 robots roaming around on the streets and people have to walk on the streets with the cars ... Maybe then we’ll do something. That seems to be a problem we have in San Francisco, and I don’t want to let things get out of hand again."
Sentiments toward delivery robots may echo how some city leaders — particularly those in Dallas — feel about dockless bikes and scooters. Dallas has had a tumultuous relationship with dockless operators ever since companies took an untraditional approach to dockless by neglecting regulations. Eventually the city sent warning letters, demanding operators clean up bikes that were "littered" on the streets, and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings reflected on this following the delivery robot briefing last week.
"I assume since there are a lot less of the machines out there, that we’ll be clear about where they’re going to be and we’ll have all that information real-time ... Because you didn't have that with the bikes. They didn't want to give it to you," Rawlings said, according to D Magazine.