February 4th Update: K5 is no longer patrolling the Times Square subway station and its effectiveness is now being reviewed by local authorities.
Is a Crime Terminator Here?
Not exactly, but it’s a start! New York City Mayor Adams has maintained his pledge to keep New York City high-tech and in so doing, he unveiled an autonomous robot that will patrol Times Square.
K5 as it is called stands about 5′ high and about 4′ wide and will act as the eyes and ears for the police. It maintains four cameras and has a button that can be pushed in case of emergency.
The robotics company Knightscope is the creators of this autonomous machine and stood beside Adams as he promoted it at a press conference in the Times Square subway. K5 is adorned with the NYPD colors. As the mayor was demonstrating it, its cameras were pointing directly at the reporters who attended the conference.
In keeping with the latest technology to fight crime in the city, the mayor said “The NYPD must be on the forefront of technology and be two steps ahead of those who are utilizing technology to hurt New Yorkers,” Adams said. “And trust me. They are.”
And NYPD Chief of Transit Michael Kemper said “It’s very important that the public knows what this robot is, what its capabilities are.”.
Is K5 a Buy or Lease?
The city is leasing the drone robot. It will roam the Times Square station between midnight and 6 a.m., but it will not go onto subway platforms.
The robot will capture video footage only. No audio but does have an emergency button that will allow commuters to contact the police department for questions or to report an emergency. No facial recognition software is attached to the machine.
Some are Not Enthused
Civil rights advocates have alleged that the police department is not following the required protocols. Some say that a public review as outlined in a law called the POST Act is not being followed.
The statute requires the Adams administration to publish detailed descriptions of a new technology’s capabilities, how it will be used, and what will be done with any data that is collected. The public is supposed to have weeks to weigh in.
However, the NYPD stated that if this type of technology, similar to one already in use (the Digidog mobile robot), it should be incorporated into its already existing impact statement.
The Legal Aid Society is questioning the NYPD and alleging that they are bypassing the concept of this law.
Legal Aid attorney Shane Ferro stated, “What happens when the 400-pound autonomous robot hits somebody or falls down the stairs?”.
Mayor Adams contends these concerns by stating that these advancing technologies are a way to increase safety in policing and help the NYPD become more efficient.
He also said that K5 saves money.“This is below minimum wage,” Adams quipped. “No bathroom breaks. No meal breaks. This is a good investment.” and “… eventually, this is going to be part of the fabric of our subway system.”
At the End of the Day!
Will these new technologies help or hinder the New York City Police Department? The answer remains to be seen, but the mayor appears hopeful it will be advantageous for the city and add additional safety for its citizens.