Riders on the subway in New York City might have noticed a new addition to the transit system: a robot named K5.
K5 is a crime-fighting machine that is supposed to make the subway safer and more secure.
But is it really a good idea to have a robot watching over us?
K5 is 64.5" tall and weighs in at 420 pounds. It looks like a giant cone with wheels. It has four ultra-HD (4K) cameras with complete 360-degree visibility, one thermal camera to detect differences in heat, LED Lights, 16 microphones, and an amplified PA speaker/horn. It moves autonomously and avoids obstacles and people with a maximum speed of 3 miles per hour. However, an officer accompanies the robot as it moves. It also comes with a docking station.
K5 is part of a pilot program by the NYPD to deploy artificial intelligence (AI) robots in the subway system. The NYPD is reportedly renting K5 for $9 an hour from a company called called Knightscope, which claims that its robots can reduce crime. The NYPD says that K5 can act as a physical deterrent to crime, as well as on-the-ground eyes to record those who commit crimes for future prosecution.
We reached out to Knightscope for a comment on this story, and this is what they tell us:
"With so many crime fighting wins accumulated across the United States to date, Knightscope is honored to continue its work with public safety clients like NYPD helping to protect the places people live, work, study and visit."
The NYPD argues that K5 can help them save money and resources, as they face staffing shortages and budget cuts. They say that K5 can patrol the subway 24/7, without needing breaks or vacations, and provide real-time data and alerts to the police. They also say that K5 can enhance public safety and trust, by providing a friendly and helpful presence in the subway.
Some subway riders agree that K5 can make them feel safer and more comfortable. They say that K5 can deter potential criminals, such as pickpockets, vandals or harassers and provide a sense of security and protection. They also say that K5 can be fun and entertaining, as they can interact with it and take selfies with it.
However, not everyone is convinced that K5 is a good idea. Privacy advocates say that K5 is a state-sanctioned surveillance device that violates our constitutional rights. They say that K5 can collect and store massive amounts of personal data, such as faces, voices, locations, and behaviors, without our consent or knowledge. They also say that K5 can pose a threat to civil liberties and human dignity by creating a chilling effect on free speech and expression and by discriminating against certain groups or individuals based on biased algorithms.
As someone who rides the subway, I’m not feeling any safer with this robot around that I’ve noticed most people ignore altogether. I wonder how K5 can actually prevent or stop crimes when it can’t use force or arrest anyone. I also worry about how K5 can affect the privacy and autonomy of subway riders. I don’t think that K5 is a solution to the complex and systemic problems that plague the subway system.
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