Not OK, Computer: After Complaints, SPCA Removes Security Robot

After receiving pushback from the public, the SPCA has ended a trial period with a Knightscope K5 security robot on the animal welfare society's Mission campus last Thursday.

After the city ordered the animal welfare agency to stand down its silicon sentry or face a $1000-per-day fine, news that K5 was being used to deter homeless residents from forming tent cities near its Mission campus went viral.

Since then, Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, president of San Francisco's SPCA, told Ars Technica that they have received messages inciting violence against their facility and have experienced two acts of vandalism.

Photo: Henner Zeller/Flickr

"Although we had already limited the use of the robot to our parking lot, we think a more fully informed, consensus-oriented, local approach on the appropriate use of these new devices will benefit everyone," Scarlett said in a statement.

At the beginning of December, the San Francisco Business Times also reported that Public Works sent an email to the SPCA stating that the robot was operating without a proper permit in the public's right of way on sidewalks around the campus.

The animal shelter then handed the issue over to Mountain View-based robot maker Knightscope, at first restricting its security helper to SPCA's parking lot.

At the end of November, an SPCA spokesperson told Hoodline that graffiti, car break-ins and new homeless encampments decreased significantly around the organization's parking lot after deploying K5.

According to the manufacturer's website, the robot is well-suited for securing large outdoor spaces, such as parking lots, corporate campuses or hospitals, and costs around $7 an hour to operate. 

At 398 pounds, the machine stands more than five feet tall and appears to be able to say short phrases, such as "pardon me."

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Not ok computer after complaints spca removes security robot