Rogers said the robots would use sidewalks and crosswalks, but would not operate on trails or roadways. They would be required to obey traffic laws and yield to pedestrians, bicycles, skateboards and more. Each would be marked with the operating company’s website address and contact information.
Rogers recommended setting a time limit for a pilot and requiring each company to pay an $808 permit fee and show proof of liability insurance. Each robot has a high price tag, so he said he wouldn’t expect more than four or five per company.
On its website, Marble describes its autonomous delivery devices as “your friendly neighborhood robot.” The company is in discussions with retailers to transport customers’ purchases. It has not publicly announced any clients, said Jackie Erickson, Marble’s director of communications and government relations, but many suggested Dallas as a test market.
The startup, founded by three Carnegie Mellon University graduates, is testing its robots about an hour east of San Francisco in Concord, Calif. It’s begun mapping some streets in Arlington and is discussing a pilot with a city in Nevada, Erickson said. Last year, it ran a meal delivery pilot in San Francisco with Yelp 324, a food delivery business that the online review company acquired.
Erickson said Marble would like to have its robots in Dallas in the fall or winter. She said “robot ambassadors” would initially tag along with the deliveries. Customers open the robot by punching in a special code that they receive after their purchase.
At the recent council meeting in Dallas, the idea of the delivery robots was greeted with enthusiasm. Council member Lee Kleinman said Dallas could be a leader in the state for the delivery vehicles. He said he did not want the city to stand in the way of companies.
After watching a YouTube video of a Marble robot, council member Sandy Greyson said they looked “very cool, very hip.” Even if it takes just a few cars off the road, she said, it would be an improvement. But she joked about whether the autonomous delivery devices would be able to detect potholes before they fall into them.
Staff writer Karen Robinson-Jacobs contributed to this report.