Tech Tuesday: Delivery robots are coming to Austin

A City Council vote last week could bring some unique changes to the streets of Austin.

AUSTIN,TX - It's official -- the City Council cleared the way for delivery robots to take Austin streets...err sidewalks.

The agenda item was passed Thursday after being considered for months in the capital city. 

While the robots would differ from company to company, the underlying idea is the same. A person, ordering food or package delivery, could actually have a robot designated as their courier. The robots would be equipped with a variety of sensors to navigate the sidewalks, avoid obstacles and deliver their packages.

City Council Member and Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo first sponsored the idea, which she calls "innovative."

"Our staff came forward Thursday, with what the framework will be," she said. "We ironed out the details and now I hope companies will come forward and will propose their pilots in Austin."

"I think it's a perfect fit for Austin," Tovo said. "Austin is a really creative community. We're an innovative community and I believe Austinites are really going to embrace this technology."

Tovo did stress that this is still early in the process. Their priorities moving forward are safety and making sure implementation doesn't take away jobs from Austinites.

Thursday's proposal included a number of requirements companies must meet to launch a pilot program in the city. Among them, a requirement for insurance, that the robots stay on sidewalks and crosswalks only, that they do not hinder people and that they always yield the right of way.

Even with those guidelines, programs must be approved by the City Traffic Engineer - meaning the robots won't likely show up next week, but pilots could be ready by late 2017 or early 2018.

Multiple companies including Starship Technologies have already expressed interest in the program. They'd already tested out some of their units in and around Austin in 2016.

For more, watch the attached video.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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