Screenshot of press conference.
The NYPD is launching a new pilot program for a robot that will patrol the subway, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced in a press conference Friday morning. The robot will have a two-month trial period in the Times Square subway station, accompanied by a cop at all times, the mayor said.
“We’re taking existing technology—cameras, being able to communicate with people—and we’re placing it on wheels,” Adams said, pointing to the robot.
The Knightscope K5 security robot weighs about 400 pounds and can move at a maximum speed of three miles per hour. “This is not a pushover,” Adams said, pointing to the robot. He then walked over to the robot and tried to push it over four times, saying it was “heavy.” The robot did not tilt, but rolled about an inch away from Adams at the first push. “It’s 420 pounds. It’s New York tested.”K5 will be in the station from midnight to 6 a.m., recording video that the NYPD can review if an emergency or crime occurs, Adams said. It will not, however, go onto the subway platforms. Both Adams and the chief of NYPD Transit, Michael Kemper, said the machine will not employ facial recognition technology. When reached for comment, an NYPD spokesperson directed Motherboard to a general policy for facial recognition software, which covers body cameras and security cameras but does not specifically mention a robot. Motherboard asked for clarification and has not received a response.“It will not record audio, and it will not use facial recognition,” Adams said. “However, the K5 does have a button that connects you immediately to a live person, that New Yorkers can utilize 24-7, with questions, concerns, or to report an incident if needed.”
In response to an audience question, Adams said that the robot did not use artificial intelligence.The NYPD does not own the robot, Adams said, but is in fact leasing it from the Knightscope company during the trial period for $9 per hour, which the mayor said was helpful due to the “very challenging budget restraints” of the NYPD. The police department’s current budget for Fiscal Year 2023 is $5.83 billion.When asked by a reporter how much the robot cost, Adams said, laughing, “I know you wanted to write about how we’re wasting money, but I’m taking your thunder away. We’re leasing at $9 an hour.” This figure does not include the cost of the human officer who will be guarding the robot. “I’m hoping you’re going to put a line in your story about how cost-efficient I am,” he continued. “This is below minimum wage. No bathroom breaks, no meal breaks. This is a good investment, so please make sure that’s added to the story, okay?”An NYPD spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment asking how much it cost for the robot to be accompanied by a human officer at all times. Police security robots are a growing trend in the U.S., but their effectiveness is unclear. Companies like Knightscope, which makes the K5 robot, have said that their products reduce 911 calls, but have cited no public evidence about actual crime reduction. Adams said the robot’s main function would be to serve as a “deterrent to crime.”The mayor was enthusiastic about the cost-effectiveness of the robot. “I want you guys to be extremely creative in your writing style to say ‘Eric, job well done,’” he told reporters. He then approached the robot for a photo opportunity and held up a hand heart to its left. The robot did not complete the hand heart, because it has no arms.