City of Arlington Invites Companies to Test Robotic Sidewalk Delivery Technology

Need some lunch, a package or important papers brought to your home or office? Companies may send an autonomous robot to make that delivery to your door one day soon thanks to the innovation and forward thinking of the City of Arlington.

The Arlington City Council approved a resolution on Tuesday, June 19, 2018, to show support and encouragement for private companies in the growing autonomous technology industry to come to The American Dream City to test and deploy robotic delivery devices in a real-world environment.

“We recognize that transportation technology is changing quickly. We believe by providing an environment where vendors can deploy early technology, we will be able to learn and better prepare for the future,” said Alicia Winkelblech, the City’s assistant director of strategic planning.

Arlington, which became the first city in the country last year to offer ongoing autonomous shuttle service to the public, has developed a reputation for its interest in exploring technology-based mobility solutions.  As a result, the City has been approached by companies interested in deploying robotic delivery technology, which are also known as Personal Delivery Devices, as part of pilot programs.

In the development of the resolution,  San Francisco-based, last-mile logistics robotics company Marble provided the City with valuable information related to the technology development, commercial applications, and social benefits of personal delivery devices.

“Arlington’s approach to implementing technology is similar to a startup: forward-thinking, innovative, and agile,” said Marble CEO Matt Delaney. “The resolution provides Marble with the opportunity to test and explore the capabilities and benefits that our robots can have on society.”

The City is not funding any pilot projects related to robotic sidewalk delivery, but it is looking to provide a supportive institutional environment for vendors, Winkelblech said. Companies would be allowed to operate autonomous, electric robotic delivery devices on city sidewalks to deliver packages. These slow-moving devices, which would require the intended recipient to enter a code to access their delivery, typically travel three to four miles an hour and are designed to make shorts trips ranging from a few blocks up to two miles.

In addition to encouraging companies to share their data with the City, Tuesday’s resolution discourages the use of Personal Delivery Devices during special events within the Entertainment District and limits the preferred size of the devices to no more than 26 inches wide.

“This will ensure these slow-moving delivery devices are small enough for pedestrians to easily maneuver around on city sidewalks,” Winkelblech said.

Earlier this month, Arlington City Council also approved a resolution authorizing the competitive sealed proposal (RFP) procurement method for the on-street autonomous vehicle service. This Request for Proposal will allow the City to contract with a vendor to provide on-street autonomous transportation services to the public within the Entertainment District. This solicitation was advertised on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, and can be downloaded on the City of Arlington Procurement Portal.