Governor Kevin Stitt signed a law in Oklahoma this week allowing small autonomous vehicles to operate on sidewalks and crosswalks (and on roadways in certain cases – maybe a pedestrian is in its path or there’s a hazard on the sidewalk). This law is aimed at encouraging autonomous vehicle delivery service companies to set up pilot programs in Oklahoma.
Delivery services like this have previously been tested in New Hampshire, Tennessee, and Texas, and these test delivery programs are set to expand even further into new locations across the country.
The delivery service would work like this: an operator, referred to as an “agent” in this Oklahoma law, would bring a collection of the vehicles to a centralized point. The agent would then release the vehicles and allow them to drive away to their destinations autonomously. Upon arrival at the destination, the customers would access the cargo bay and retrieve their items using an app or some other kind of verification protocol. The technology has been used during the pandemic for contactless delivery. These vehicles must obey traffic laws and cannot travel over 10 miles per hour. Transportation of hazardous materials is prohibited.
James Grimsley, a member of Oklahoma’s Transportation Commission, said, “The pandemic has accelerated acceptance and a recognition of the need for the next generation of delivery technologies. As [an Oklahoma Department of Transportation] commissioner, I’m optimistic that some of these new types of delivery may, in the long term, improve safety on our roadways. All forms of advanced transportation technology will benefit from careful and proactive planning at the tribal, state and local levels.”
While the state of Oklahoma has passed this law, cities and towns will have the ability to ban the autonomous delivery vehicles from operating within their boundaries, or within certain districts.