When DHL, FedEx and Amazon, among others, started experimenting with delivery ‘dogs’, cute little robots that could bring packages to your door, we thought it was a fun idea, and a sign of how the future would work.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t turned out that way. Even though the delivery bots were quite agile and smart, they found themselves competing for sidewalk space with more important urban residents – joggers, pet walkers, seniors, and wheelchair users and other people with disabilities.
Some robotic delivery vehicles are fully capable of cruising down the street, except they’re not licensed to do so. Which means they end up sharing the sidewalks and shoulders with all us humble pedestrians. And in busy cities, it’s bad enough dealing with inconsiderate walkers, never mind robotic crawlers.
The biggest complaint is about bots that get stuck, usually trying to cross a street, preventing someone else making the crosswalk before the light. A wheeled drone blocking the ramp onto the sidewalk is a real hazard for a wheelchair coming the other way. And if the light changes, you’re stuck in the street.
Now metro managers are putting their foot down. Delivery robots have to be licensed for specific neighborhoods, and those that don’t comply will be arrested. Even a single complaint can get them banned and subject to seizure by the ‘dog catchers’.
And like all stray dogs, they go straight to the pound.