ATLANTA – Georgia is about to embrace a new form of transportation technology that meets the demands of the e-commerce age.

The law, passed by the General Assembly this year and taking effect Friday, will authorize “personal delivery devices,” better known as delivery robots, to navigate the state’s freeways and sidewalks.

House Bill 1009, which the Georgia House of Representatives and state Senate overwhelmingly approved, lays out regulations for delivery robots, including where and when they can work and at what speeds, weight limits, and penalties for violators.

“If we let robots onto the streets, we need to have requirements for them,” said state assemblyman Todd Jones, R-South Forsyth, the sponsor of the bill.

With no rules for delivery robots, the technology has had limited use in Georgia. But that could change soon.

Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A announced late last month plans to test delivery robots in a limited number of restaurants in Florida, Texas and California.

“Two-thirds of my business is deliveries,” said Luke Steigmeyer, operator of a Chick-fil-A in Austin, Texas, which already uses delivery robots in partnership with an Austin-based autonomous delivery company.

“The autonomous vehicles have been instrumental in raising awareness of delivery at my restaurant, allowing us to reach even more customers in the area.”

Delivery robots are equipped with artificial intelligence systems and advanced depth-perception cameras, allowing them to navigate traffic patterns, avoid pedestrians, and maneuver through car lanes, bike lanes, and sidewalks.

The robots are insulated to keep groceries at the right temperature and keep customers updated on their progress via text message as they navigate to the designated drop-off point.

Under Georgia’s new law, delivery robots may operate at no more than 20 miles per hour on unrestricted-access highways with speed limits of 45 miles per hour or less and on sidewalks with at least 4 feet of travel for people with disabilities.

They can weigh no more than 500 pounds when empty and 600 pounds when carrying cargo, and emit a sound when within two meters of another vehicle, person on foot, or person in a wheelchair.

Local governments are allowed to set hours of operation for delivery robots and ban them from operating on school campuses, hospital campuses, or sidewalks next to stadiums, coliseums, or government buildings.

Cities and counties are also allowed to restrict the robots to specific geographic areas of their communities.

While violations are not treated as criminal offenses, they carry a civil penalty of up to $500.

Jones said facilitating the use of delivery robots for businesses in Georgia is one way state decision-makers can show business prospects that the Peach State is technology-friendly.

“We will continue to push our boundaries so that the industry sees Georgia as a great place for ‘sandbox’ ideas,” he said.

“It’s the kind of legislation that says, ‘This isn’t just a great place to do business. We will work with you to push the extreme boundaries of innovation.” ”

This story is available through a news partnership with the Capitol Beat News Service, a Georgia Press Educational Foundation project.