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.