SoMa Gas Station Robot Deters Criminals

The future is here with San Francisco gas stations now using robot security guards to deter crime, and even livestream everything that’s happening round-the-clock for 24-hours online.

SF Curbed reports that YouTube user Brian King had set up an ongoing stream on his channel surveilling the Shell gas station on 8th and Harrison Streets in SoMa. He was not surveilling people getting gas though, he was surveilling a 5-foot tall white pod-shaped robot doing its job patrolling the gas station.

King said that the robot had appeared on Friday morning. “I put up a livestream to capture any challenges the robot might face,” he said.

Where did the robot come from? It was produced by Knightscope, a Mountain View-based startup founded in 2013, that markets its robots as “crime deterrent devices”. This particular robot they built was a Knightscope K5 model, and its job is to scan license plates and the gas station owners get alerts when employees they fired, or trespassers, or domestic abusers are found in their gas stations or parking lots. The robot has four-way cameras and it warns people passing by that they are being recorded.

It’s not something that would chase criminals off as it moves at a slow speed of 3 miles an hour. It’s main purpose is to “make people feel like they’re being watched” and dissuade criminals from doing any illegal activities. After all, according to SFPD’s Crime Maps tool, police received reports of 134 alleged crimes within a quarter mile of 8th and Harrison just this past month, including 27 cases of assault, 16 vehicle break-ins, and 8 motor vehicle thefts at this very same intersection.

King’s audience who continually watch the surveillance says that not too many exciting things happens to the robot as it rarely leaves its post, nor does it interact with people that much. Passersby do seem to like to take selfies with it though.

The employees who work at the Shell gas station reports that the robot seem to help turn away homeless people. Although it also weirdly played a short loop of “Brian Eno” sounding ambient tones continuously and no one could figure out how to lower its volume.

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