Robots are being used to deter homeless people from setting up camp in San Francisco

In San Francisco, autonomous crime-fighting robots that are used to patrol parking lots, sports arenas, and tech company campuses are now being deployed to keep away homeless people.

The San Francisco Business Times reported last week that the San Francisco SPCA, an animal advocacy and pet adoption group, put a security robot to work outside its facilities in the gentrifying Mission neighborhood. The robot’s presence is meant to deter homeless people from setting up camps along the sidewalks.

Last week, the City of San Francisco ordered the SF SPCA to keep its robot off the streets or be fined up to $1,000 per day for operating on sidewalks without a permit, according to the Business Times.

Krista Maloney, media relations manager for the SF SPCA, told Business Insider that staff wasn’t able to safely use the sidewalks at times because of the encampments. Maloney added that since the SPCA started guarding its facilities with the robot — known as K9 — a month ago, the homeless encampments have dwindled and there have been fewer car break-ins.

K9 is part of a crime-fighting robot fleet manufactured and managed by startup Knightscope in Mountain View, California. The company’s robots don’t fight humans; they use equipment like lasers, cameras, a thermal sensor, and GPS to detect criminal activity and alert the authorities.

Their intent is to give human security guards “superhuman” eyes and ears, according to Bill Santana Li, CEO of Knightscope, who spoke with Business Insider earlier this year.

Knightscope rents out the robots for $7 an hour — less than a security guard’s hourly wage. The company has over 19 clients in five US states. Most customers, including Microsoft, Uber, and Juniper Networks, put the robots to work patrolling parking lots and office buildings.

Preventing crime is part of the pitch that Knightscope makes to prospective customers. (Increased police presence can reduce crime, though this is not always the case.)

“If I put a marked law enforcement vehicle in front of your home or your office, criminal behavior changes,” Li told Business Insider earlier this year.


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4 thoughts on “Robots are being used to deter homeless people from setting up camp in San Francisco

      1. ‘Tax The Robots’ Says Bill Gates – Forbes
        https://www.forbes.com/sites/ianmorris/2017/02/17/tax-the-robots-says-bill-gates/
        Feb 17, 2017 – Bill Gates says if robots want our jobs, they’ll have to pay our tax too. … I make no excuses for my fanboy reactions to Bill Gates. … Companies will still save money because they won’t have to provide robot pensions, robot healthcare (assuming servicing is included in the deal to buy the robots) and robots …
        Bill Gates: the robot that takes your job should pay taxes — Quartz
        https://qz.com/911968/bill-gates-the-robot-that-takes-your-job-should-pay-taxes/
        Feb 17, 2017 – Robots are taking human jobs. But Bill Gates believes that governments should tax companies’ use of them, as a way to at least temporarily slow the spread of automation and to fund other types of employment. It’s a striking position from the world’s richest man and a self-described techno-optimist who …
        Missing: pensions
        “Tax The Robots” Says Bill Gates | Wall Street Oasis
        https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/tax-the-robots-says-bill-gates
        Feb 18, 2017 – So tax the Robots says Gates, and he says that he doesn’t think the robot companies will mind all that much if we do. Companies will still save money because they won’t have to provide robot pensions, robot healthcare (assuming servicing is included in the deal to buy the robots) and robots won’t need …
        Bill Gates says robots that take your job should pay taxes – Business …
        http://www.businessinsider.com/bill-gates-robots-pay-taxes-2017-2
        Feb 17, 2017 – Just because a worker isn’t technically “alive” doesn’t mean it can make money for nothing, according to Bill Gates. In a recent interview with Quartz editor-in-chief Kevin Delaney, the billionaire philanthropist explained that robot labor should get taxed just like human labor — primarily as a way to maintain …
        Missing: pensions..

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