PennDOT adds new "Personal Delivery Devices" (PDD) to definition of "pedestrian" in the vehicle code along with comprehensive PDD Operations Policy

PennDOT has added new "Personal Delivery Devices" to definition of "pedestrian" in the vehicle code along with a comprehensive PDD Operations Policy detailing responsibilities, powers, requirements, and recommendations for how the new classification will operate alongside pedestrians and pedalcyclists in pedestrian areas, on select shoulders and berms, and on select roadways.

(Note: Information about operational policies, responsibilities, powers, requirements and recommendations referenced in this article was taken directly from the new PennDOT PDD Operations Policy published on January 29, 2021.)



Since June 2020, The General Assembly of Pennsylvania began rapidly advancing Senate Bill 1199 amending Title 75 (Vehicles) to provide definitions for a new type of autonomous vehicle called "Personal Delivery Devices" (PDD). Ultimately classifying PDDs as pedestrians, the SB 1199 was amended in late September, signed in the state senate and house in late October, and was enacted and "became law without the Governor's signature" on November 1, 2020.

Now identified as Act 106 of 2020, the updates and changes defined by the bill will have gone into effect as of January 30, 2021.

In light of concerns raised in part by City of Pittsburgh Department of Mobility and Infrastructure and other stakeholders regarding the Act, local officials and stakeholders have spent the last few months focusing on a clear articulation of local priorities, values, and objectives related to the bill. Stakeholders gathered feedback and proactively worked with PennDOT in an advisory role to ensure these new policies for governing the authorization and operations of personal delivery devices were enacted to ensure "least harm" in the Commonwealth.

As of February 1, 2021, PennDOT has published the Personal Delivery Device Operations Policy and Authorization Process. Both documents are available to the public here.


What is a Personal Delivery Device (PDD)?

As defined by Act 106 of 2020 and summarized on PennDOT's website, a PDD is a "ground-based delivery device that is manufactured for transporting cargo or goods and is operated by a driving system that allows for autonomous and/or remote operations." Per the Pennsylvania vehicle code, PDDs are classified as pedestrians and are afforded the same rights.

PennDOT published a video briefly defining the new classification here:

Personal Delivery Devices can range in size, shape, and use case, but can be as large as:

  • 32 in. wide,
  • 42 in. long,
  • 72 in. tall, and
  • weigh up to 550 lbs without cargo

They're prohibited from traveling faster than 12 mph in pedestrian areas or 25 mph in roadways, or shoulders/berms of roadways.

Operating requirements dictate that PDDs shall be equipped with a driving system that allows for remote or autonomous operation, or both.

Under the new legislation, Personal Delivery Devices are defined as "pedestrians" with three exceptions:

  1. They must yield the right-of-way to all pedestrians and pedalcyclists in a pedestrian area.
  2. They must travel in the same direction of traffic when traveling on a roadway or shoulder/berm.
  3. In specific circumstances, they may operate within the travel lane of a roadway.

The devices must be equipped with a braking system that meets PennDOT's standards based on weight, and must be equipped with lamps visible from at least 500 feet to the front (white) and rear (red) that operate at a minimum from sunset to sunrise, and during insufficiently lit or unfavorable conditions.

The devices must also be equipped with technology that allows law enforcement and emergency responders to stop or disable the PDD.

Additional "recommendations" in the PDD Operations Policy include emitting warning sounds to alert pedestrians of their presence, a flag or antennae attachment on shorter PDDs, and retroreflective materials on the sides if operating after dark.


Where and how can Personal Delivery Devices operate?

Because they are now classified as "pedestrians", PDDs are permitted to operate in any pedestrian area including sidewalks, crosswalks, safety zones, pedestrian tunnels, overhead pedestrian crossings (or similar areas designed for pedestrians), and on roadways or the shoulder/berm of a roadway posted at 25 mph or less.

Assuming there are no limiting safety restrictions and use is practicable, PDD are permitted to operate in any of the areas defined above according to the following priority:

  1. PDDs will utilize the shoulder or berm of a roadway first
  2. PDDs will utilize a pedestrian area such a sidewalk second
  3. PDDs will utilize the roadway as practicable to the outside edge

Once authorized for use through PennDOT's application process, Personal Delivery Devices will operate in two Phases:

  • Phase 1 (First 180 days following authorization of use) – The PDD will be operated through an autonomous or remote driving system. However, a PDD operator must be within 30 feet of the PDD and maintain line of sight of the PDD. After 180 days, a PDD will automatically transition to Phase 2 unless the authorized entity agrees to remain within Phase 1.
  • Phase 2 (after 180 days) – The PDD will be operated through an autonomous or remote driving system. However, a PDD must be monitored remotely and, if necessary, controlled or overridden remotely.

Per the law, PennDOT is responsible for developing policies governing the operations of PDDs and the application process to grant authorization. PennDOT has the sole authority to issue, approve, renew, revoke, suspend, condition, or deny issuance or renewal of PDD authorizations. Once authorized, an application to operate a Personal Delivery Device is valid for a period of one year.


PDD Operations Policy Details:

Complete details of PennDOT's Personal Delivery Device Operations Policy is available now on the PennDOT website.

The 23-page document covers a lot of information, including the Responsibilities and Powers placed on PennDOT, Authorized Entities, Municipalities, and Law Enforcement:

Responsibilities and powers placed under the jurisdiction of PennDOT like:

  • Prohibiting use where the operation could constitute a hazard;
  • Authorizing use where posted speed limits are greater than 25 mph but no greater than 35 mph;
  • Notifying authorized entities when conditions constitute a weather emergency or hazardous event;
  • Displaying a list of authorized entities and the operational phase of each entity on the PennDOT website, along with any orders, policies, or guidelines issued by PennDOT consistent with 75 Pa.C.S §8513

Responsibilities and powers placed on the Applicant or Authorized Entity like:

  • The right to appeal suspensions or revocations;
  • Must notify municipalities of intent to operate with 30 days notice
  • Must self-report any crash involving PDDs that resulted in bodily injury, death, or damage to property within 24 hours to PennDOT and municipality law enforcement;
  • Must maintain records and provide information on an ongoing basis to PennDOT as deemed reasonably necessary for administration and enforcement;
  • Can only operate according to the operational phase authorized and according to the operational plan authorized by PennDOT;
  • Must maintain an insurance policy that includes general liability coverage of at least $100,000 per incident;
  • And "must ensure that a PDD will yield the right-of-way to, or safely navigate around, all pedestrians and pedalcyclists in a pedestrian area"

Responsibilities and powers placed on Municipalities like:

  • May create an ordinance or resolution permitting the use of PDD on a roadway, shoulder, or berm, under their jurisdiction where posted speed limit is greater than 25 mph but not greater than 35 mph;
  • May create an ordinance or resolution prohibiting the use of a PDD on any roadway, shoulder, or berm, or pedestrian area under their jurisdiction where, after consultation with the authorized entity, determines that the operation of the PDD would constitute a hazard;
  • Can enforce any law, rule, or regulation related to the operation of a PDD via local law enforcement
  • Must notify applicable authorized entities when the municipality determines conditions constitute a weather emergency or hazardous event
  • With special note that municipalities are prohibited (except as identified above) from regulating the operation of a PDD operated in a pedestrian area, roadway, shoulder or berm of a roadway, under the jurisdiction of the municipality.

Responsibilities and powers place on Law Enforcement like:

  • Enforcing compliance in accordance to 75 Pa. C.S. § 8521 (Criminal penalties)

The PDD Operations Policy goes on to outline authorization application and review process, defines operating phases and the transition therein (including potential for transitioning prior to 180 days), and modification, renewal, suspension, revocation, appeal, prohibition, and reinstatement of authorization, as well as conditions, compliance, enforcement and criminal penalties, and right-to-know laws.

It also outlines requirements for PDD Operators and a complete list of 28 Operations Requirements like those outlined above and a lot more including:

  • If a PDD is unable to safely yield or navigate around other pedestrians, pedalcyclists, or animals in a pedestrian area, the operator shall resume control within 60 seconds of notification as long as the PDD never puts a pedestrian in a position of danger due to the inability to safely yield or navigate around.
  • Cannot block curb cuts or access to driveways
  • Cannot exceed 12 miles per hour when operating in a pedestrian area like a sidewalk or crosswalk
  • Must leave sidewalks perpendicular to the shoulder of the roadway when transitioning to and from the shoulder
  • Cannot operate in pedestrian areas that are less than 60 inches wide "unless the PDD applicant can describe how the PDD will safely yield the right of way or safely navigate around pedestrians and pedalcycles" which must meet the Americans with Disabilities Act's minimum clear width for a single wheelchair of 36 inches, and FWHA's minimum width of 30 inches for a single pedestrian – dictating that "the authorized entity shall consider this information when determining routes."
  • Must maintain a relative walking speed when in proximity of pedestrians and pedalcyclists in a pedestrian area
  • Must maintain a speed differential of no more than 5 mph from surrounding vehicles, but never exceeding the posted speed limit, when operating on a roadway "unless the PDD applicant can provide an individualized assessment based on the characteristics of the device and the roadway on which it will be operating."
  • Prohibited from operating on designated "PDD Restricted Safety Areas" based on previous five-year crash history (a map of which will be maintained by PennDOT's website)
  • Prohibited from operating in/on trails "unless the trail is similar to sidewalks, crosswalks, safety zones, pedestrian tunnels, or overhead pedestrian crossings, and falls under the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania Title 75, or if operating on the trail does not violate 23 U.S.C. § 217(h)"
  • Prohibited from operating in/on unpaved surfaces in the public right-of-way including dirt, gravel, or grass, "unless the applicant can document how the PDD will not become immobilized on the unpaved surfaces."
  • Prohibited from operating in/on bike-only lanes

Additional Operating Recommendations, though not "requirements", include:

  • The PDD will not dwell in a pedestrian area for longer than 5 minutes while waiting to start or complete a delivery
  • The PDD should only operate when performing deliveries or conducting essential functions such as mapping or calibrating
  • A larger PDD should yield to a small PDD when encountering one another
  • Any images collected by the PDD during operations should be used for operational purposes only
  • The PDD should avoid operations during peak hours and periods of high traffic (varied by location and recommended that the authorized entity coordinate with the municipality and PennDOT)
  • The PDD shall operate at a relative walking speed in areas zoned a Downtown or Commercial Neighborhood and in residential zones with 60 or more dwelling units per acre

Also covered in the Operations Policy are requirements and recommendations related to:

  • Weather emergency and other hazardous events
  • Cargo (no regulated hazardous materials, no age restricted items that require age verification unless equipped with ability to perform age verification, no live animals, all cargo must be enclosed, and the weight of cargo cannot cause structural damage to roadways or pedestrian areas)
  • Public education/community engagement
  • Crash procedures
  • Safety and maintenance
  • Identifying markings

Dated January 29, 2021, the complete Personal Delivery Device (PDD) Operations Policy is available to download from the PennDOT website right now.