Robots in San Francisco are being used against homeless people

A Knightscope security robot

A San Francisco animal shelter has come under fire for using a security robot to push out homeless people nearby.

San Francisco is known for its horrific treatment of homeless people, as well as its tech startups in Silicon Valley and other various companies that use the latest technology — like robots and drones — to run their offices.

The San Francisco branch of the SPCA (the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has combined the city’s hatred of poor people with its love of technology, and hired a robot dubbed ‘K9’ to patrol the sidewalks outside its facilities.

According to a report from the San Francisco Business Times, the robot built by Knightscope — a Mountain View security company — was deployed as a “way to try dealing with the growing number of needles, car break-ins, and crime that seemed to emanate from nearby tent encampments of homeless people.”

The K9 robot is in fact a K5 unit from Knightscope, a Mountain View security company. One of K5 models famously committed ‘suicide’ by drowning itself in a fountain, and another ran over a toddler.

Jennifer Scarlett, the city’s SPCA president said: “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.”

“Contrary to sensationalised reports, Knightscope was not brought in to clear the area around the SF SPCA of homeless individuals,” a spokesperson told The Verge.

Maybe it tried to drown itself because it couldn’t handle taking orders from such terrible people

“Knightscope was deployed, however, to serve and protect the SPCA. The SCPA has the right to protect its property, employees and visitors, and Knightscope is dedicated to helping them achieve this goal. The SPCA has reported fewer car break-ins and overall improved safety and quality of the surrounding area.”

It’s interesting that what these people call “protecting” doesn’t mean protecting human life, but rather the wealth and property of one group over another. The judgement that the city passes on homeless people is brutal enough, but the fact they are now using these robots to shoo them away like rats rather than house them is yet another display of San Francisco’s cruel inequality.

However, SPCA K5 might not even survive in San Francisco. Not because it’s fed up with life, but because the city recently passed new legislation to limit the use of robots in city streets. The rules were aimed primarily at delivery bots, but the SPCA has been ordered to keep the K5 off sidewalks or risk a $1,000 daily fine.

Knightscope is currently negotiating with the city over future deployments.

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Albert Aka

Albert is a 24-year-old law graduate based in South London. He's keen on callisthenics, fitness, UK grime and hip-hop, and he's always up-to-date on sports, whether it's basketball, football, MMA, or boxing.

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