If an android is being advertised as a “security robot,” you’d expect it to make you at least feel safe when it’s around paroling its area, right? Unfortunately for 16-month-old Harwin Cheng, that’s no longer the case. The poor kid was walking around the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, California, with his parents when a security droid knocked him over from behind and ran over him. The company has since recalled the bot, but these incidents seem to be on the rise.
The robot hit my son’s head and he fell down facing down on the floor and the robot did not stop and it kept moving forward. He was crying like crazy and he never cries. He seldom cries.
Executives at Knightscope Inc. may have been crying too when Harwin’s mom, Tiffany Teng, described to the media what happened. .The robot was the Knightscope-K5, one of two 5-foot-tall, 300-pound Autonomous Data Machine models marketed by Knightscope as “force multipliers, data gatherers and smart eyes and ears on the ground helping protect your customers.” In this case, only Harwin’s ear was on the ground as the K5 failed in “anomaly detection.” Fortunately, Harwin was not seriously hurt but Knightscope’s reputation and that of other robot manufacturers might be.
For now, the mall has suspended it's robotic security team until further notice. To its credit, Knightscope apologized to the family and issued an incident report describing what happened. However, it also used the opportunity to brag about the robot’s safety record and did not address another similar incident reported by a security guard just days earlier at the same mall.
Are humans safe when autonomous robots roam autonomously? A robot escaped from its testing facility a few weeks ago in Russia, stopping traffic and causing concern among locals, especially after it escaped again a few days late. The manufacturer says it may have to be destroyed.
Then there’s the woman walking her dog near Boston when she unexpectedly met up with an Atlas walking humanoid robot from Boston Dynamics. Fortunately, Atlas had a world of watchers following closely behind to protect their investment.
Who’s protecting us?