Academic journal article Rutgers Computer & Technology Law Journal

Where the Sidewalk Ends and Robots Deliver: Setting a Framework for Regulating Personal Delivery Devices

Academic journal article Rutgers Computer & Technology Law Journal

Where the Sidewalk Ends and Robots Deliver: Setting a Framework for Regulating Personal Delivery Devices

Article excerpt

I.    Introduction                                           94 II.   Background Information on Personal Delivery        Devices                                               97 III.  History of New Technologies & the Law's        Response                                             101        A. Transformative Technologies and the Law's         Response                                            101        B. Difficulty in Finding the Liable Party            102        C. The Future of Personal Robots and the Law         103 IV    . Merging of Regulations                              103        A.   Autonomous Vehicles                             104        B.  Drones                                           107        C. Sidewalk Traffic                                  108 V     Safety Concerns                                       111        A. Weather                                           111        B. Time of Day                                       112        C. Speed, Weight, and Location of Personal Delivery         Devices on the Sidewalk                             113        D. Control                                           115        E. Identification                                    115        F. Security                                          116        G. Privacy                                           117 VI.   Guidelines For A Potential Framework                  117        A. Generic Rules                                     117        B. Dealing with Safety Concerns                      118        C. Insurance                                         121        D. Dealing with Privacy Concerns                     122 VII.  Conclusion                                            123 

I. INTRODUCTION

Regulation can stifle innovation. (1) "[R]egulation places a compliance burden on firms, which can cause them to divert time and money from innovative activities to compliance efforts." (2) Although this may be the case, regulation is necessary to protect the general public from injury. Unfettered use and application of technology can provide great utility to society, but can also cause great social harm. Therefore, a balance needs to be struck that does not impede innovation, but rather facilitates progress in a safe and efficient manner. (3)

The acceleration of technological advances has provided great value to society. Many inventions and innovations provide cost effective solutions to everyday problems. Many advances also aim to limit the carbon footprint caused by human counterparts. One such example is personal delivery devices that effectuate the last mile of delivery. For example, Amazon is in the process of developing drones that may be used to deliver packages. (4) Other examples, which is the subject of this Note, are personal delivery devices that travel on the ground, rather than in the air. (5) This Note will argue that a national regulatory framework, combined with governance at the local level, is necessary to allow for producers of personal delivery devices to yield consistent and uniform production and operation. This Note will also provide a background, considering the safety and privacy concerns, for a future regulatory framework for personal delivery devices.

In March of 2016, the District of Columbia passed the Personal Delivery Device Act of 2016 ("the Act") which "implement[ed] a pilot program... for the registration and operation of [Personal Delivery Devices] in the District." The legislation closely followed the bike laws of Washington D.C. For example, personal delivery devices are allowed to operate on sidewalks and crosswalks, except in the central business district. (7) The Act also set forth weight and speed limitations, as well as system requirements in case the devices failed and needed to be controlled. (8)

The Personal Delivery Device Act also requires operators to register their personal delivery devices. (9) To register, the applying operator is required to certify that the personal delivery device is safe to operate on sidewalks and provide "[t]he proposed geographic locations within the District where the applicant intends to operate the" personal delivery devices. …

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