PHOENIX - A bill introduced to the Arizona House of Representatives would allow self-driving delivery drones on Arizona sidewalks.
HB2422 is sponsored by Rep. Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa) and would create a separate class of vehicle specifically for autonomous delivery drones.
Under current law, they would be classified as motor vehicles and kept on the street.
Autonomous delivery drones have started operating in major cities across the world, including San Francisco and Washington, DC. One company, called Starship, came to Phoenix Wednesday to support the bill.
Starship's drones weigh about 50 pounds and transport small objects, including groceries and takeout, the company said.
"Candidly, it can carry just about anything," company spokesman David Catania said.
Small businesses contract with Starship for short-distance deliveries, about a mile or less. When an order comes in, the business loads up the robot and sends it to the buyer's address. When it arrives, the buyer gets a text and an unlock code for the robot. Then, the drone returns back to its base.
That's a job that's being done by delivery drivers right now.
But Catania said the Starship drones have little impact on delivery drivers because the range is so limited.
"They actually like the device because they prefer to do the longer trips where the tips are greater," Catania said.
Currently, Starship runs about 90 percent autonomously, Catania said, but a human "minder" walks along with it to note its performance and make sure it gets where its going. The company hopes to eliminate the need to follow the robots soon.
HB2422 is currently in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.