New York bins subway surveillance robot

The New York City subway system has pulled its K-5 security robot out of service at the Times Square station just over 5 months after its introduction. The robot, known for its sci-fi appearance featuring cameras and emergency buttons, was intended to boost safety and security.


However, its brief tenure was reportedly plagued with issues. According to sources, K-5 required near-constant charging, assistance climbing stairs from human officers, and struggled traversing the busy station alone.

“The Knightscope K-5 has completed its pilot deployment in the NYC subway system,” confirmed a police spokesman of the robot’s retirement to storage.

The move has prompted criticism over the expensive gadget from privacy advocates like Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project watchdog group. “I said this was a trash can on wheels, but it looks like the wheels aren't even working at this point,” Cahn said.

“With major crimes down and the mayor mandating budget cuts across city agencies, why are we spending so much money on these gadgets?” he added, noting the $74,000 robotic dog also recently reintroduced.

The security robot was championed by Mayor Eric Adams as part of his tech-centric approach to policing, alongside surveillance cameras and vehicle tracking. But even as Adams has praised falling crime rates, critics point out many cities without these controversial devices have also improved.

While the K-5 pilot is being hailed as completed, it highlights concerns over investing scarce resources in robotic security over community-based policing. The robot’s struggles navigating New York’s extremes also raise doubts about the maturity of the technologies involved.

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