Police robots keep malfunctioning, with mishaps ranging from running over a toddler's foot to ignoring people in distress
- Security robots are being gradually adopted by some police departments and private companies, but there have been some recent hiccups.
- The robots are autonomous and are designed to patrol property and respond to perceived threats.
- Some robots, however, have been thwarted by obstacles like mall fountains, narrow sidewalks, and errant toddlers.
- Knightscope, one of the most popular companies making security robots, has maintained that the mishaps are outliers.
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Police robots are now a reality in some corners of the world - but we're still a far cry from high-octane RoboCops patrolling the streets.
As some police departments and private companies have begun to experiment with security robots built for surveillance, the robots have repeatedly hit obstacles (or, in some cases, fallen into them).
The most prominent security robot maker is Knightscope, which sells a fleet of egg-shaped robots that are already patrolling the streets of Silicon Valley.
Knightscope has more than 50 robots deployed across the US, which it rents out for $7 an hour. The robots cost about $60,000-$70,000 per year to lease, which is comparable to a police officer's annual salary. Knightscope has raised over $46 million in funding, according to Crunchbase.
Knightscope's robots use artificial intelligence, cameras, GPS, lasers, and thermal sensors to monitor their surroundings and report disturbances. The company drew backlash in 2017, when a San Francisco animal rights group deployed Knightscope robots to block homeless people from sleeping outside its headquarters.
Controversy aside, there have been multiple reports of Knightscope robots being incapacitated by obstacles like a mall fountain, malfunctioning by running over a toddler, and ignoring a woman's calls for help.
Knightscope did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story. In the past, the company has maintained that malfunctions like those are outliers, or stemmed from unique circumstances surrounding how private companies were piloting the use of security robots.
Here's a rundown of high-profile security-robot snafus from recent years.