Why D.C.'s sidewalk delivery drones are doomed

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"It’s official," declares The Washington Post.  "Drone delivery is coming to D.C. in September."


These drones won't be of the flying variety. They're earthbound. Starting September 15, D.C. is running a year-long "pilot project" with wheeled, autonomous delivery robots made by Estonian robotics company Starship Technologies. Similar tests are also set to run in the U.K.

The robots, which look kind of like sleek coolers on wheels will use sidewalks and aren't allowed to go faster than ten miles per hour. Individual companies will be able to use up to five of them, reports the Post.


There is one slight snag with this plan: people love to kick the shit out of robots.

Remember hitchBot? hitchBot was a robot that successfully hitchhiked all the way across Canada before someone destroyed it as it tried to do the same thing in the U.S. The case made researchers concerned about human-to-robot cruelty. The robotics company Boston Dynamics has garnered plenty of publicity over the years by posting videos of its products getting kicked around.

Just in case you think this is a case of exceptional American cruelty, let's also recall the Japanese study that found kids jumped at a chance to beat up a robot just to see how it would react.

That's to say nothing of the obvious risk that the Post points out: theft. These are delivery bots, there's almost certainly something good inside, at the very least, a pizza, or cat food.


Anyway, best of luck, little robots. I'm afraid I'll be counting the days until I see the first video of a congressional intern riding one of you down a flight of stairs.

Ethan Chiel is a reporter for Fusion, writing mostly about the internet and technology. You can (and should) email him at ethan.chiel@fusion.net

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