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Idaho is the second state to allow unmanned robots to deliver to your front door

Virginia was the first. Wisconsin and Florida may be next.

Starship

Idaho has become the second U.S. state to pass legislation to permit unmanned, ground-based delivery robots to rove around on sidewalks across the state.

Earlier this month, Virginia made robotics history as the first state to pass a law specifically addressing the use of autonomous terrestrial delivery robots.

The new Idaho law, which was signed by the governor today, goes into effect July 1.

The legislation was championed by state Republican lawmakers, Jason Monks in the House and Bert Brackett in the Senate. Monks worked with Starship Technologies, an Estonia-based robot delivery company, on the legislation, which sailed through both state houses to pass in less than a month.

Starship is trying to tackle the “last mile” problem — the time-intensive door-to-door work of delivering directly to people’s homes, a job currently done by humans. It’s a problem Amazon and 7-Eleven are trying to solve with drones, but federal rules in the U.S. bar drones from flying without an operator in line of sight. With state laws like the ones currently being passed, ground-based robotic delivery may come to scale sooner than delivery by drones.

Ground-based delivery robots are now allowed to operate in Idaho without a person walking alongside them or watching them in their line of sight. In other words: The robots can operate autonomously in Idaho. But there still has to be a remote monitor somewhere in the loop to intervene in case one of the rovers needs assistance.

The delivery robots that fall under the law can’t go faster than 10 miles per hour.

Similar to the Virginia legislation, local Idaho municipalities are allowed to adopt their own regulations, like if a town wants to prevent the operation of the robots in certain crosswalks or limit the speed of the devices.

Though Starship Technologies helped to pass the new Idaho law as well as the legislation in Virginia, it’s not clear that the company has a business plan in Idaho or what the company’s strategy is with working to pass specific state laws permitting the use of their technology across the country.

Idaho, after all, isn’t exactly the first state people think of when imagining a pioneering use of delivery robots, and Starship says that it doesn’t have a delivery partner in the state to announce it’s working with yet.

Two other states, Wisconsin and Florida, also have similar legislation in the works to grant permission for the use of autonomous ground delivery robots statewide, which are likewise being introduced with the help of Starship Technology’s policy team.

When Recode asked Starship what their national game plan is, a company representative responded, “We're taking it one step at a time,” and urged us to, “Watch this space for more approvals in the future.”

Starship is already testing its robotic delivery technology with Postmates in Washington, D.C., and DoorDash in Redwood City, Calif.

The new laws in Virginia and Idaho don’t only apply to Starship’s robots. Other delivery robots, like those being built by companies like Marble and Dispatch, could also potentially operate under the new law.


This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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