Fully Autonomous Robot Cops are Here

Meet Knightscope, a security robot capable of patrolling sidewalks, parking lots, schools, and malls. Weighing a hefty 300lbs it has a full 360 degree vision with the help of HD and infrared cameras. It also has a built in sound system that is capable of picking up key sounds such as breaking glass or loud noises that can send alerts to the system.

Founded in April of 2013, Knightscope’s mission is to use autonomous technology along with predictive analytics to create safer communities. The company doesn’t aim to directly replace security guards, but instead it aims to assist them in their job. After raising over $14 million in Series A and B rounds, Knightscope launched a “mini-IPO”. Any interested investor can own a share of the Silicon-Valley startup for a minimum of $999.

There are two versions of the autonomous security robots, the five foot tall K5 and the three foot K3. The K5 is meant to patrol large outside spaces like parking lots, and some large shopping centers, while the K3 is meant to patrol smaller areas such as office spaces. Both weigh in  at a little over 300lbs and have the ability to record audio and video, read license plates, detect the presence of firearms, and identify a broad variety of other anomalies.

Furthermore, the company is renting out these security robots for a mere $7 per hour. An average security guard wage is $25-35 an hour, meaning that one can run the Knightscope 24/7 for the cost of a single security guard shift, not a bad deal at all.

We recently had the chance to see one of these machines in action. The San Jose Westfield mall has a few of those robots inside their shopping center. When we observed one of the K5s, it mostly remained stationary in a single area. We saw a total of two Knightscopes at the Valley Fair mall, one stayed around fancy designer stores like Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Versace, etc, while the other stayed around the Microsoft and Apple stores. Checkout this video of the security robot in action:

The robot tries to stay out of people’s way as much as possible. When it detects a person approaching it will stop dead in its tracks when a passerby is in a 5-10ft radius around it. As safe as it sounds, unfortunately there was a case where the 300 lbs machine ran over a 16 month boy. The robot first accidentally hit child which knocked him down face first, the K5 didn’t stop and ran over the kid’s foot. Rest assured the toddler was not seriously injured as his father was able to pull him away, had the father not been there the robot would have ran over the child’s other foot potentially causing serious harm.

It is unclear whether a software update was implemented after the incident which changed the K5’s behavior, however, the robot always stopped when I was within a 5ft radius. Then again, I am an adult male, the case might be different for a child or a small pet.

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