RICHMOND, VA (VCU CNS) – Having your groceries delivered by a robot sounds like something out of The Jetsons, but that prospect is not as futuristic as you may think.

For the second year in a row, the Virginia General Assembly has passed a law to legalize the operation of autonomous vehicles. Beginning July 1, “electric personal delivery devices” will be allowed to operate on sidewalks and other shared-use paths throughout Virginia.

A leading manufacturer of EPDDs is Starship Technologies, a robotics company started by Skype co-founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis of Estonia. Starship is testing its robots in a number of European countries including England, Germany and Switzerland. In March, the company opened an office in Washington, D.C., and is operating the vehicles there.

State Sen. Bill DeSteph of Virginia Beach says he saw an opportunity to update existing Virginia laws to accommodate Starship’s delivery robots after being contacted by one of the company’s lobbyists.

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