Giant Police Robot Begins Patrolling NYC Subway

It will spend two months in Times Square as part of a pilot program

Robot police signage
Washington, DC has a police robot at work as well.
ROB LEVER/AFP via Getty Images

Read or watch enough science fiction stories and it won’t be long before you come across a tale of robots initially deployed with the best of intentions turning on their creators. All of that serves as prelude to New York City announcing that a massive robot is set to begin patrolling the Times Square subway station — a similar model to the one that was tasked with monitoring a park in Washington, D.C. a few years ago.

As Engadget’s Mariella Moon reports, the robot — a Knightscope K5, to be specific — weighs 420 pounds and has four cameras mounted on its body, with which it can presumably keep the subway station under surveillance.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams described the use of the K5 as a pilot program, and noted that it would operate between midnight and six in the morning in the station, not the platform.

“It will record video that can be viewed in case of an emergency or a crime. It will not record audio, and it will not use facial recognition,” Adams explained. “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.”

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The pilot program is set to last for two months. At that time, Adams said, the city would “assess the robot’s effectiveness and decide whether and how we’ll continue to use it moving forward.”

Unlike San Francisco’s foray into police robots, this pilot program doesn’t appear to have any potential for the robot to use force against a human. Still, a towering robot weighing over 400 pounds is still an imposing sight — and it might make late nights in Times Square feel a bit more science fictional than before.

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