Amazon hopes its Scout robots will carry packages autonomously the “last mile,” from delivery hubs to homes. – ROGER KISBY/GETTY IMAGES
The companies are backing bills in more than a dozen states that would legalize the devices. Some bills would block cities from regulating them at all.
IN FEBRUARY, A lobbyist friend urged Erik Sartorius, the executive director of the Kansas League of Municipalities, to look at a newly introduced bill that would affect cities. The legislation involved “personal delivery devices”—robots that, as if in a sci-fi movie, might deliver a bag of groceries, a toolbox, or a prescription to your doorstep. It would have limited their weight to 150 pounds, not including the cargo inside. And it would have allowed them to operate on any sidewalk or crosswalk in Kansas at speeds up to 6 miles per hour, the pace of a quick human jog.
Lawmakers and lobbyists say the bill was drafted with help from Amazon. In later testimony to a state senate committee, Amazon lobbyist Jennie Massey said the bill would allow devices like Scout, the company’s bright blue, six-wheeled robot, “to bring new technology and innovation to Kansas.” She noted that Amazon had invested $2.2 billion in Kansas since 2010, and that the company employed 3,000 full-time workers in the state.