Two different views of A white and blue patrolling robot with "Knightscope Security" written on it
Two different views of the same Knightscope K5 robot has bothered residents nearby.

Read in Spanish / Leer en español

A Knightscope Autonomous Security Robot has been patrolling the PG&E property at 19th and Folsom streets since earlier this month, presumably keeping vandals and others away. Most assuredly, it has annoyed some neighbors.  

“It’s creepy. No one likes this. Just — no one likes this,” said Emily, a 25-year-old bartender at The Homestead, located across from PG&E’s property. “Also, this is such a historic bar. This bar has been around since 1902. So you’re sitting at this old bar and seeing a robot across the street.”

PG&E, which did not get back to Mission Local for a comment or to answer questions, first tested the Knightscope robots in 2021, and after a “successful pilot” now has 10 such robots.  Most recently, it added five robots to its contract in August, 2022, according to this article. 

Knightscope rents out the machines for $7 an hour, considerably less than the city’s minimum wage of $16.99 an hour. 

Currently, there is one robot patrolling the perimeter of the property. It roams on the sidewalk outside the fence. It moves slowly; its maximum speed, according to the Knightscope website, is three miles per hour. It is about five feet, two inches tall. It is egg-shaped and makes a loud shimmering sci-fi/extra-terrestrial sound as it moves. 

According to Knightscope’s website, this robot’s capacities list “force-multiplying physical deterrence,” “​​360-degree, eye-level video streaming and recording in HD,” “people detection during certain restricted hours,” and “License Plate Recognition (parking monitor and watchlist for approved and denied vehicles).”

Kyle, who lives near PG&E’s land, said that the robots were “especially troubling,” because “people without homes have used these sidewalks for a while now, and the robot annoys the hell out of anyone trying to do as much as just stand here.”

Moreover, he added, they are noisy.  “We can hear the annoying sound that the robot makes all day long, including when we’re trying to sleep at night.”

The K5 robots have also been reported at the Westfield Valley Fair shopping center in San Jose and at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto. Knightscope sells its robots to police forces and private companies across the country. Some models are equipped with facial recognition technology

Follow Us

Yastika is from India. She spends a lot of time on public transport.

Join the Conversation

30 Comments

Please keep your comments short and civil. We will zap comments that fail to adhere to these short and very easy-to-follow rules.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Given what is occurring with substation domestic terrorism all over the Country, this seems justifiable. It seems like something could be done to make them quieter though…?

    1. Excuse me!

      Where might compassionate, spiritual and holistic thou suggest they rest their weary, tech capitalism-oppressed heads then?

  2. “That PG&E building at 19th is constantly full of graffiti from piece of shit taggers making the area feel unsafe and extra dirty.”
    Graffiti is an Art, not a crime, so it’s all in the eye of the beholder. PGE shut off power illegally to millions of people and made the area feel unsafe. I do believe multiple people died because their oxygen tanks needed electricity. But please complain about Graffiti making you feel unsafe.

    1. By ordinance “San Francisco Public Works Code, Article 23, Section 1300: Graffiti Removal”, the City fines property owners who don’t remove graffiti from their property, so there’s that. Contact your supervisor if you disagree.

      “The Board of Supervisors hereby finds and declares that:
      (a) Graffiti is detrimental to the health, safety, and welfare of the community in that it promotes a perception in the community that the laws protecting public and private property can be disregarded with impunity. This perception fosters a sense of disrespect for the law that results in an increase in crime; degrades the community and leads to urban blight; is detrimental to property values, business opportunities, and the enjoyment of life; is inconsistent with the City’s property maintenance goals and aesthetic standards; and results in additional graffiti and in other properties becoming the target of graffiti unless it is quickly removed from public and private property.
      (b) Graffiti results in visual pollution and is hereby deemed a public nuisance. Graffiti must be abated as quickly as possible to avoid detrimental impacts on the City and its residents, and to prevent the further spread of graffiti.
      (c) Graffiti is increasingly used by gangs to frighten residents of neighborhoods and instigate and escalate disputes with opposing gangs. Therefore, gang graffiti, in particular, exacerbates the degradation of San Francisco’s quality of life. In order to alleviate this fear caused by gang graffiti, and to assist the partnership between the City and the neighborhoods in their mutual efforts to make streets safe, gang graffiti must be abated as quickly as possible.
      (d) Graffiti also is used in guerilla marketing campaigns to promote or publicize, for commercial or non-commercial purposes, goods, products, and services in lieu of or to supplement conventional advertising techniques. This type of graffiti must be abated as quickly as possible to avoid detrimental impacts on the City and its residents, and to prevent the further spread of graffiti.
      (e) It is the purpose of this Article 23 to provide a program for the removal of graffiti from walls, pavement, structures, and other improvements on both public and private property, including the public right-of-way. “

  3. Thanks for this article, however I’d appreciate if the author tried to investigate the other side of the story. Comments on this article seem to indicate benefits of:
    – Reduced graffiti & vandalism
    – Security without the violence of police
    – Crime deterrence
    – Surveillance which can help prosecute criminal activity
    Give us the cons AND the pros!

  4. Why on earth would anyone think that PG&E, a family owned/operated anti-trust “business” would EVER (1) do anything to benefit the community it professes to “serve”?! PG&E is just as corrupt as SF DBI was (and possibly still is). AND AS FAR AS THE CA PUC-ABOLISH THIS NOTHING BUT SELF-INTEREST, SELF-SERVING SO CALLED “Oversight Committee” IMMEDIATELY. THE “MEMBERS” of the CA PUC are do nothing but allow PG&E to raise their already exorbitant rates every winter and every summer! THIS SO-CALLED “AGENCY” CONSISTING OF OVER 300 MEMBERS DOES NOTHING BUT INCREASE THEIR INDIVIDUAL WEALTH EACH AND EVERY YEAR!

  5. Love these robots! Although, it sucks they make noise. Hopefully they fix that part. That PG&E building at 19th is constantly full of graffiti from piece of shit taggers making the area feel unsafe and extra dirty. This is a blessing for the neighborhood to deter crime and not have a public health problem on the sidewalks. My guess is many of the residents surrounding the building actually like these robots, but would never say so publicly.

    Isn’t this the type of thing that the “defund the police” crowd is looking for? This is a non violent way to deter crime. Any thoughts from that crowd on these robots? I would assume they would be for these types of programs/ideas.

    1. Maybe if they worked as security guards, they would have less reason to tag!
      This is about saving money!
      Also, you do know that many of the taggers are spoiled brats from wealthy families. I see that all the time!

  6. They’ve been here in Oakland for a while. One actually had a video that led to someone being arrested. Considering the lack of police doing old fashion police work and security guards not being able to anything other than being assaulted. Seems like they would be welcome. But as usual we live a world where people whine and complaining. But don’t want solutions

  7. The way people are using ‘the land’ around PG&E, it’s too bad the robot doesn’t have hose to wash their $h!t and urine. Also, describing Kyle as someone ‘who lives near PG&E’s land’ is beyond woke.

  8. “It’s creepy. No one likes this. Just – no one likes this,” said Emily, a 25-year-old bartender at The Homestead, located across from PG&E’s property. “Also, this is such a historic bar. This bar has been around since 1902. So you’re sitting at this old bar and seeing a robot across the street.”

    That is an Onion-level hilarious comment.

    1. “This bar has been around since 1902”
      The supposive only building that survived the 1906 earthquake and fire that destroyed the rest of San Francisco. Revisionist History from a bartender at The Homestead, located across from PG&E’s property. LMAO…

  9. It seems that local residents are more upset about a crime deterrent than about the actual criminals and vandals.

  10. Nobody should expect to abandon their property on the sidewalk and then find it later where they left it, in the condition they left it.

    These should be easily tippable with a rope or sash, but unlike cows, magic mushrooms don’t spout after a rain from their poo.

  11. Given how terrible and lawless the mission has become, this makes complete sense. PG&E can do whatever they want to patrol their property, especially if they keep getting vandalized.

  12. I’m not going to touch the nonsense about protecting the homeless on 19th Street from the robots (Mission, never change…). That said, the noise/sound emanating from the robot at all hours is a real nuisance. If that block was more residential, PGE would have an angry mob at their gates.

    Surely this is just a matter of reading the user manual to find the mute setting?

  13. 3 miles per hour may be slow for robots but it is pretty much standard for human walking. And lets not forget PG&E is a criminal enterprise, so security is surely needed.

  14. So. . . what do they do, besides wander their paths, recognizing faces and license plates, irritating people, and making noise?

    And wtf does this even mean: “force multiplying physical deterrence,” “​​ ??

    I wonder if a case could be made against PG&E for equipment noise abatement as well as currently illegal homeless sweeps.

    Hmm. . . 🤔

    1. “force multiplying physical deterrence” is the concept that the robots mere presence will deter at least some crime.