Lawmakers Don’t Know How to Regulate Amazon’s Delivery Robots

Amazon Delivery Bots Are Here

KIDS ARE PARTICULARLY terrible for robots. A group of kids antagonized the robot, forcing the researchers to program an algorithm that would give the bot the agency to evade abuse. That’s just one example of challenging social interactions between humans and robots, and one that technologists have almost certainly considered when building and designing delivery bots.

Battle Bots

Delivery robots are starting to catch the eye of both food delivery services like Postmates and tech giants like Amazon.

That’s a drama currently playing out in Washington, according to the Associated Press, where politicians are struggling to figure out rules for Amazon’s new delivery pilot program.

Gray Area

Washington lawmakers are currently debating a bill that would place a cap on the size of these robots and restrict them to sidewalks and crosswalks. It would also require human operators to monitor the self-driving robots as they work.

“What would you define this as? Is it a motor vehicle, is it a pedestrian? We don’t have, currently, rules that would define the behavior of this,” said Democratic Rep. Shelley Kloba when the robots were unveiled during a demonstration at the steps of the Washington State Capitol on Monday.

Beep Beep

Kloba said she’s awaiting feedback from disability rights advocates to make sure that the robots don’t put pedestrians in danger.

But no matter what she and other Washington politicians decide, delivery bots will likely only become more and more common as the underlying technology improves — and as companies decide that the cost of new tech is cheaper than investing in paying a human delivery driver’s wage.