Houston TX Jan 26 2020 Bad boys, bad boys, what you gonna do? What you gonna do when Officer K5 comes for you? Likely escape if you can move faster than 3 mph, but K5 probably will capture it on video. Robot security guards are coming to a Houston-area transit center, park and ride lot and rail station in the coming months, after the Metropolitan Transit Authority board approved a $270,000 test of the techno-police Thursday. “They have been shown to be deterrents,” said Denise Wendler, chief information officer for Metro. Wendler said Metro’s agreement with Knightscope is a one-year test, from which it could expand beyond the three locations. Citing the need to provide more security to petty crimes without stretching police resources, officials sought information on the robotic rangers.
Agency officials, in consultation with the company, will decide which parking lots, transit centers and rail stops get a robot in the first year, Wendler said. Security sentinels are becoming a familiar sight in shopping malls and some developments. In downtown Houston, a robot patrols the grounds of Allen Center. Though many users nationally have said they are a cost-effective crime deterrent, the devices have raised alarms with some privacy concerns about a robot roaming public spaces recording everything and broadcasting back to private and public entities. Fears of hacking also have been raised. Metro officials are likely to use a K5 robot — a 400-pound, 5’2” bullet-shaped bot that moves at a maximum speed of 3 mph — at a transit center and park and ride lot. Though a sleek R2-D2 does not sound that intimidating, its ability to record video and relay it to police is its real threat to thieves and others. “What they have seen is people move away from it because they do not want to be videoed,” Wendler said.
At the rail platform, Metro is likely to use a stationary K1 robot, which gives people the ability to immediately report incidents as the machine’s cameras canvass the platform. Metro board member Lisa Castaneda joked that a transit agency employee called it “a big Ring doorbell. ”The stationary robot was recommended by Knightscope, Wendler said, because company officials thought the mobile machines would be a disruption to foot traffic at the rail stop, and could pose safety hazards. “It would be too easy to push it off the platform,” Wendler said.