Last week, a robotic security guard tackled a 17-month-old kid, and the parents watched in horror as it rolled over the right foot of the child. The incident was reported last week at Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto.
The five-feet-tall robot is 300 pounds heavy and is one of the two robotic cops deployed by the mall for security purposes. The mall rents these bots from Knightscope at $6.5 an hour. The robotic security guards are meant for passive tasks like security surveillance, aided by visual and audio detection. The robot recognises the audio signals like screaming people and the sound of breaking glass.
Knightscope has repeatedly iterated that the robocops are only used as passive observers. Marketing VP of the company, Stacy Stephens said:
“They’re meant for a support role, observing and reporting only. There’s no offensive measure to them at all.”
Harwin Chen waddled into the robot and was knocked down by the robot. Even as the child lay face down on the floor, the robot advanced onto him and ran over the right foot of the kid. Harwin’s mother caught hold of his other leg and moved it out of the way. The father pulled his screaming son to safety before the robot could advance again.
Knightscope has blamed the kid for this fiasco:
“A K5 Autonomous Data Machine (Machine Identification Number 13) was patrolling at a local shopping center when, at approximately 2:39pm PDT, a child left the vicinity of his guardians and began running towards the machine. The machine veered to the left to avoid the child, but the child ran backwards directly into the front quarter of the machine, at which point the machine stopped and the child fell on the ground.”
As for the robot, it does not even acknowledge the collision:
“The machine’s sensors registered no vibration alert and the machine motors did not fault as they would when encountering an obstacle. Once the guardians retrieved the child and the path was clear, the machine resumed patrolling. The entire incident lasted a few seconds and a scrape on the child’s leg and a bruise with minor swelling were reported.”
Knightscope emphasised that these security robots have patrolled more than 25,000 miles, in over 35,000 hours.
“[Knightscope] is publicly extending a formal apology for the freakish accident [albeit their attempts to] reach out to the family on numerous occasions without reply.”
The prevalence of robots implies that the probability of such incidents is also on the rise. Instant measures to avoid such incidents in the future need to be taken immediately.