Robot Wages War on the Homeless, the Homeless Fight Back

The Kinghtscope K9 has been banned from use on the public streets outside the posh office block to clear the homeless as the company do not have a permit

The Kinghtscope K9 has been banned from use on the public streets outside the posh office block to clear the homeless as the company do not have a permit

The San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was plagued by needles on the sidewalk, auto break-ins, and other crimes emanating from a homeless encampment near its offices, Fox News reported, so the non-profit reached out to Knightscope, the maker of a line of autonomous robot security guards.

Robots and the homeless are battling over San Francisco squatting space and city officials are trying to step between them.

"We weren't able to use the sidewalks at all when there's needles and tents and bikes, so from a walking standpoint I find the robot much easier to navigate than an encampment", SPCA president Jennifer Scarlett told the Business Times.

The K5 is equipped with four cameras that monitor its surroundings, and moves on wheels at speeds of up to three miles per hour.

Fran Taylor, who works with pedestrian advocacy group Walk San Francisco, said the robots were also an invasion of privacy and were "an obvious attack on the very people in San Francisco who are already having such a hard time surviving in this expensive city".

"In the past year we've experienced a great deal of auto break-ins, theft, and vandalism that has made us concerned about the security and safety of the people on our campus", the SPCA's media relations manager Krista Maloney told Dezeen.

The company rented the robots instead of hiring people to do the job because the cost of a live security guard is prohibitive given San Francisco's $14-per-hour minimum wage. One Twitter user claimed they saw feces smeared on its shell, while another described the robot's use as "shameful".

Scarlett added: "I can understand being scared about a new technology on the street, and we should be asking questions about it, but we should probably be a little bit angry that a nonprofit has to spend so much on security at the same time".

The city's Department of Public Works, though, wrote the SPCA on December 1 saying it did not have approval to use the robots on sidewalks.

After being warned on December 1 by the city's Department of Public Works that the SPCA would be fined $1,000 for every day that the K5 operated on a public sidewalk, the shelter has agreed to pull the guard and pass negotiations with the city up to the robot's manufacturer, Knightscope.

Wired magazine reported that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted December 5 to severely restrict delivery robots on sidewalks, forcing startups to get permits under strict guidelines in particular zones like industrial areas with low foot traffic.

The K5's presence also angered the local community, who took to social media to complain.

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