The forward thinking of the City of Arlington resulted in its City Council approving a resolution on Tuesday, June 19, 2018, to allow private companies in autonomous technology industry to test and deploy robotic delivery devices in a real-world environment in Arlington.
“We recognize that transportation technology is changing quickly. We believe by providing an environment where vendors can deploy early technology, we will be able to learn and better prepare for the future,” said Alicia Winkelblech, the City’s assistant director of strategic planning.
Arlington was the first city to offer on-going autonomous shuttle service to the public, last year. In the development of the resolution, San Francisco-based, last-mile logistics robotics company Marble provided the City with valuable information related to the technology development, commercial applications, and social benefits of personal delivery devices.
“Arlington’s approach to implementing technology is similar to a startup: forward-thinking, innovative, and agile,” said Marble CEO Matt Delaney. “The resolution provides Marble with the opportunity to test and explore the capabilities and benefits that our robots can have on society.”
Marble began mapping sections of North Arlington, Texas, sidewalks on Friday, Aug. 17 as part of a planned pilot project. Marble’s website describes its autonomous delivery devices as “your friendly neighborhood robot.” Jackie Erickson, Marble’s director of communications and government relations said that Marble is already testing its robots in Concord and is discussing a pilot with a city in Nevada. Last year, it ran a meal delivery pilot in San Francisco with Yelp 324, a food delivery business successfully. Erickson said Marble would like to have its robots in Dallas in the fall or winter. She revealed that customers would be able to access the robot by punching in a special code that they receive after their purchase. The robots would be slow-moving devices are designed to make shorts trips ranging from a few blocks up to two miles.
According to Michael Rogers, director of the city’s department of transportation, the robots approximately the size of a motorized wheelchair — would travel at the maximum of 10 mph for 1 or 2 miles using sensors and cameras to detect and autonomously steer around obstacles like cyclists, dogs and fire hydrants. For the pilot the number of devices would be limited and a human would walk behind the device to monitor its safety, he said.
Rogers briefed the city’s Mobility Solutions, Infrastructure and Sustainability Committee on the autonomous delivery devices pointing out the advantages of the pilot for the city: Apart from reducing the number of delivery trucks congesting the roads, there would also be a decrease in emissions from vehicles. Rogers added that the robots would use sidewalks and crosswalks only and would obey traffic laws and yield to pedestrians, bicycles, skateboards and more. Each robot would be marked with the operating company’s website address and contact information.
The Arlington City Council aims to encourage more private companies to test and deploy their robotic delivery devices in the American Dream City.