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NYPD subway robot, Knightscope, gets sacked after two-month pilot program

Screenshot from Mayor Eric Adams Makes Safety Related Announcement | NYC Mayor’s Office

The NYPD have made the decision to pull their Knightscope K5 patrol robot off its patrol after cutting its pilot stage short in the New York City subway system. 

The NYPD confirmed the status of the robot through an email sent from a spokesman to The New York Times. The K5 robot was spotted sitting in a vacant storefront on a Friday morning. 

The robot was a project spearheaded by New York City Mayor Eric Adams with a goal of addressing the city’s ongoing problem with public safety in the transit system.

Charles Lutvak, a spokesperson for the mayor, confirmed the short timeline for the K5’s patrol of the Times Square–42nd Street subway station. 

“The Adams administration is constantly exploring innovative technologies that can advance the work we’ve done to bring down crime and keep New Yorkers safe, while maximizing the use of taxpayer dollars,” Mr. Lutvak said. 

In an attempt by Mayor Adams to address the city’s age old problem of public safety and justice within the largest transit system in the world, he publicized the implementation of new technologies around the city’s five boroughs. 

He aims to reduce crime and enhance the public’s perception of safety within their urban communities. 

The K5 security robot, the result of Mayor Adams’ recent efforts toward accomplishing this goal, is a 5-foot tall, 400 pound machine equipped with GPS, 360-degree HD video, audio recording systems, biological chemical, and radiation detection sensors and more. 

Adams spoke on the K5 robot during its debut at a September 2023 press conference calling the robot a benefit for the city.

“Eventually, this is going to be part of the fabric of our subway system,” Adams said. “This is below minimum wage. No bathroom breaks. No meal breaks. This is a good investment.”

However, the actual effectiveness of the mechanical assistant has been called into question with many residents claiming to have never seen the robot without an accompanying police officer contradicting its original design aspect of operating without human handlers.

In the past, similar security robots like Knightscope have been deployed in other states and their efforts have been reported to be less than helpful. 

In 2019, a robot ignored a woman who was trying to report an emergency, Business Insider reported at the time. 

In 2017, a security robot rolled into a fountain in a Washington, DC office building, effectively drowning itself. 

In 2016, a security robot in a Palo Alto mall knocked down and ran over a toddler. 

Despite these unfortunate incidents, authorities continue to maintain that these mishaps are outliers, and city officials continue to purchase and rent these machines.

Additionally, community concerns over the dedication of funds towards the implementation of seemingly ineffective security measures have poured out over social media platforms for the months since news of K5 was announced. Mayor Adams has repeatedly touted the $9 per hour cost of renting the robot for NYPD use.

According to The New York Times, the robot costs about $60,000 to $70,000 a year to run while the four month pilot program cost the city $12,250.

According to The New York Times, the robot raised concerns from privacy advocates who emphasized the potential of the K5 robot being equipped with facial recognition technology in the near future, allowing it to become a “harbinger of an evermore-dystopian surveillance society and further infringing upon New Yorkers’ privacy.” 

Despite the mayor’s denial of the possibility of such technology being employed, the Legal Aid Society strongly urged an investigation into the Police Department’s utilization of surveillance technology, contending that it violated a city ordinance mandating disclosure of the new technology’s usage and data protection protocols.

Shane Ferro, a staff attorney for the Digital Forensic Unit at The Legal Aid Society reacted to K5’s retirement.

“The Adams’ Administration continues to be distracted by false claims of high-tech solutions to age-old issues. The NYPD subway robot is an unnecessary expense and public gimmick that serves no legitimate safety purpose,” Ferro said.

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    NateFeb 24, 2024 at 9:56 am

    Operating costs are not that high. I will report this for false statistical data