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Tue, June 18

Delivery devices get more scrutiny after driverless car fatality

David Catania, spokesman for Starship Technologies, explained last month how his company’s personal delivery devices would work and why it needs changes in Arizona law to test and deploy the devices here. (Capitol Media Services file photo by Howard Fischer)

David Catania, spokesman for Starship Technologies, explained last month how his company’s personal delivery devices would work and why it needs changes in Arizona law to test and deploy the devices here. (Capitol Media Services file photo by Howard Fischer)

PHOENIX — The killing by an autonomous vehicle this week of a pedestrian crossing the street has a Mesa lawmaker giving second thoughts to allowing automated motorized delivery devices on sidewalks.

House Majority Whip Kelly Townsend told Capitol Media Services Tuesday that her bill to allow autonomous vehicles onto sidewalks to make deliveries, something not allowed under current Arizona law, likely needs a closer look after the fatal crash. And Townsend said HB 2422 may need more restrictions.

Her concerns follow an incident Sunday night, in which a vehicle being tested by Uber, operating in autonomous mode, struck and killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg as she was crossing the street outside of a crosswalk in Tempe. Preliminary reports are that the vehicle did not brake before hitting her, suggesting it did not “see’’ her.

In the interim, Uber has suspended all of its self-driving testing in Arizona and elsewhere. But HB 2422, pushed by Estonia-based Starship Technologies, already has cleared the House and now awaits Senate action.

A company spokesman told reporters last month the plan is to have the devices do the kind of delivery that might otherwise be done by a person, with deliveries ranging from groceries to packages. The devices, he said, are programmed to unlock when they reach their desired destination.

Townsend — who saw them in operation in Washington, D.C. — liked the idea. But there was a problem: They’re not legal in Arizona.

“I just need the bill to allow them to be on the sidewalk,’’ she said.

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