A Southern Californian family has had a whirlwind of a week as their 16-month old son was knocked to the ground and run over by a 300-pound robot in a shopping mall. The couple watching in horror as their son’s foot was run over by the robot created by a company called Knightscope. The mother and father have a conflicting story than that which Knightscope has.
The Teng’s went to the Stanford Shopping Centre this week to buy their young son clothes. Mr. and Mrs. Teng claim that as they were walking by Armani Exchange with their son a few paces ahead of them they first saw the robot slowly approaching. Mrs. Teng says the robot ran directly into her son, hitting him in the head and knocking him to the ground. She began screaming; “What is that thing!’ over and over as she tried to pull her son out from under the machine. Finally, Mr. Teng was able to free him from the clutches of the metal beast. His leg and foot are badly bruised, the Teng’s feared he may have had a broken bone from the incident.
Knightscope has issued a statement saying they are horrified that their equipment had hurt someone, let alone a small child. The vice president of marketing and sales Stacy Dean Stephens said; “Our core mission is to ensure public safety, and we are taking this report very seriously.” Though they may be taking it seriously, they believe the Teng’s are not quite accurately depicting what happened to the child in their statements to the press. Knightscope believes the machine swerved to miss the child but that the child then ran backwards right in front of the machine.
The K5 unit is a completely autonomous machine that patrols campuses, malls, and workplaces. It has a live camera feed and Knightscope claims it can usually predict unusual or dangerous behavior:
“Utilizing numerous sensors, lasers and a significant amount of code, the K3 and K5 can roam a geo-fenced area autonomously (meaning not remote-controlled) on their own randomly or based on a particular patrolling algorithm. They can successfully navigate around people and objects in a dynamic indoor or outdoor environment. The K5 is even able to detect a vehicle backing up or tailing the machine in a parking lot setting (Knightscope, 2016).”
The K5 robot stands at about 5-feet-tall and resembles a white rocket. Mrs. Teng claims there should be a sign on the machine warning people not to go near it. She said her son must have been drawn to the machine as it does not look dangerous, and resembles R2D2. When their nightmare was over and the Teng family was speaking to the Stanford Shopping Centre security the guard mentioned that it was the second time in a week a child had been struck by the robot. Knightscope says they have only received one report of their machine harming a child, that of the Teng’s.
A spokeswoman for the mall said that the robots are currently under investigation and that they will be docked until the investigation has some conclusive results. The incident occurred in Silicon Valley, the global hub of technology. This accident is a reminder that technology, including robots will become increasingly more a part of human life, and that there will certainly be issues along the way that need to be solved.
In Dallas, last week, when five police officers were tragically killed the situation was finally nullified when the shooter was also killed. The explosive device that killed the sniper, who murdered the police officers and wounded several more, was delivered by a robotic device. The robot used in Dallas is not autonomous and is maneuvered by man. Last month, the Tesla self-driving car made a lethal error when it did not recognize a tractor trailer and ran into it, killing the driver. Robotic technology is a long way from perfection, however incidents like those that have happened in the past month are sure to occur again while discovering and developing new robotic technology. Knightscope invited the Teng’s and their son to the manufacturing facility in order to familiarize themselves with the technology. However, Mrs. Teng claimed her son was not ready, and would probably start crying upon seeing the machine again. The robot was not available for comment.