Lawmaker Reconsiders Autonomous Delivery Vehicle Restrictions

By Holliday Moore
Howard Fischer
Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 - 12:08pm

The automated Uber fatality has cast doubts on a bill at the capitol.

House Majority Whip Kelly Townsend admitted her bill, that allows autonomous delivery vehicles to park on sidewalks, may need revisiting to restore restrictions stripped in earlier committee discussions.

In her original draft, for example, the bill limited delivery vehicles to 100 lbs total weight, but that was pulled after businesses suggested it could prevent competition from emerging companies.

"I just need the bill to allow these things to be on the sidewalk," Townsend told Capitol Media Services just days after a woman was struck and killed by an autonomous Uber vehicle.

Arizona law currently does not allow motorized vehicles on sidewalks, but Townsend proposed it should after returning from Washington, D.C. where autonomous delivery vehicles are already being used.

And, although Sunday's accident involved a pedestrian who was struck while crossing outside of a designated cross walk, Townsend said she is not in a hurry to be attached to a fatality or injury caused by an autonomous vehicle.

"Now that this has happened," she said, "it has given me pause."

As the author of HB2422 she may insist that the weight limit be put back into the bill.

But the version awaiting a Senate roll-call vote also removes some other provisions that were in the original bill, including a requirement that the devices have brakes. And it deletes a provision that would preclude the robots from transporting hazardous materials. Also gone is the requirement for $100,000 worth of liability insurance.

Townsend said that, given all the questions, it might be appropriate to put a "sunset'' provision into her legislation, having it self-destruct at some future date unless specifically renewed by lawmakers.

That would require the Legislature to review how the testing has gone and determine whether changes are needed in the law — or even whether Arizona wants to continue to allow the devices on the sidewalks.

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