The Robots Are Coming and They’re Bringing Pizza


The Robots Are Coming and They’re Bringing Pizza

While the thought of robots automating more aspects of our lives may be frightening, for now residents of Washington D.C. and a few other cities are enjoying the benefits of their growing prominence.

Recently, Virginia and D.C. became the first jurisdictions to pass laws regulating the use of food delivery robots. These food delivery “bots” weigh up to fifty pounds and can move freely up to ten miles an hour. Although the bots operate autonomously through an artificial intelligence that learns as it travels, the Virginia law still requires companies to remotely monitor the robots. The law also allows local municipalities to amend the regulations as needed to ensure the bots don’t backup traffic, trip pedestrians, or otherwise unintentionally disrupt local communities.

Major tech companies like Google and Amazon have lauded Virginia’s forward thinking, as they also attempt to connect customers with automated delivery and logistics systems. Yet, these initial attempts at regulation will likely encounter unforeseen complications and need further refinement. Health and food safety rules, transportation and traffic management practices, remote surveillance oversight, and tort law are all implicated when such bots travel the sidewalks with pizza.

These types of disruptive technologies are often incompatible with existing regulations. As disruptive technologies continue to touch our everyday lives, building and navigating the new regulatory and legal framework in which they operate will be a critical task for businesses, consumers, and governments. Innovative legal thinking will be necessary to design a regulatory system flexible enough to accommodate these emerging technologies while still protecting traditional health, safety, and consumer welfare interests. A proactive approach ensures regulators and lawmakers understand the benefits of disruptive technology while securing a place for it in our lives.

From concept to market to regulation, Bernstein Shur counsels businesses and regulators on emerging and disruptive technologies.

Meet the Team: N. Joel Moser, Mike Bosse, and Zachary Brandwein.