Accident gives Mesa lawmaker pause over automated delivery robots

By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services via East Valley Tribune

The killing of a pedestrian by an autonomous vehicle last week has a Mesa lawmaker giving second thoughts to allowing automated motorized delivery devices on sidewalks.

David Catania, right, a spokesman for Estonia-based Starship Technologies, says the autonomous delivery robots have an effective range of about 2 miles./Howard Fischer / Capitol Media Services

House Majority Whip Kelly Townsend told Capitol Media Services that her bill to allow autonomous vehicles onto sidewalks to make deliveries, something not allowed under current Arizona law, likely needs a closer look after the fatal crash. And Townsend said HB 2422 may need more restrictions.

Her concerns come in the wake of an incident March 18 in which a vehicle being tested by Uber, operating in autonomous mode, struck and killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, who was crossing the street outside a crosswalk in Tempe. Preliminary reports say the vehicle did not brake before hitting her, suggesting it did not “see” her.

In the interim, Uber has suspended all of its self-driving testing in Arizona and elsewhere. But HB 2422, pushed by Estonia-based Starship Technologies, already has cleared the House and now awaits Senate action.

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