Iowa legislators eye laws regulating automated delivery vehicles on sidewalks

Iowa lawmakers are considering allowing Amazon autonomous delivery vehicles in some Iowa neighborhoods. (Amazon)
Iowa lawmakers are considering allowing Amazon autonomous delivery vehicles in some Iowa neighborhoods. (Amazon)

DES MOINES — A House subcommittee has begun paving the way for autonomous delivery vehicles in Iowa neighborhoods.

“Welcome to the future,” Rep. Rob Bacon, R-Slater, told a subcommittee on House Study Bill 25, that would authorize and regulate the operation of personal delivery devices on sidewalks.

He described the vehicles as being about the size of an ice chest and weighing no more than 550 pounds when empty.

The bill would allow the vehicles, which employ automated driving technology, to deliver packages to customers who opt-in to the service.

Much of the discussion of the bill — before the three members of the Information Technology subcommittee advanced it — dealt with safety issues, Bacon said.

The vehicles have sensors to detect pedestrians and are linked to a human observer either in a “command center” or on the ground in the delivery area, the legislators were told.

In all cases, Bacon said, pedestrians would have the right of way.

The committee heard from lobbyists from Coralville and the Leagues of Cities who had questions about safety, especially about the vehicles crossing streets, and about local control.

Bacon believes an amendment to be offered in committee will address concerns about crossing streets.


The vehicles are being tested in four cities around the country, and companies are looking to expand the delivery option where appropriate.

“It’s the kind of thing with great possibilities,” said Christopher Rants, a lobbyist representing Services and former speaker of the Iowa House.

“However, they’re not for everywhere,” he said, explaining the delivery vehicles will operate only in areas where sidewalks are wide enough to accommodate them and pedestrians.

That’s likely to be suburban neighborhoods with the right population density and enough customers ordering on a regular basis to make the delivery option worthwhile.

They’ll also be limited by weather conditions.

The devices help delivery companies find another option to having a delivery truck parked on a street, constantly running, Rants said.

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