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.
“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.