A San Francisco animal shelter recently tried using a roaming robot they named "K9" to keep homeless people away from their adoption center in the Mission. The organization said the robot was a way to deal with car break-ins and needles.
“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,” Jennifer Scarlett, the S.F. SPCA’s president, told the Business Times.
Once the SPCA started using the robot on the sidewalks around its campus in early November, Scarlett said, there were no more homeless encampments. There were also fewer break-ins to cars in the campus parking lot. It’s not clear that the robot was the cause of the decreases, Scarlett added, but they were correlated.
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The city is apparently in the process of finalizing rules for robots to "roam the sidewalks to deliver food and goods" but those rules won't apply to "security robots" like this, according to the Business Times.
Homelessness in San Francisco is down this year, but only barely. The city has the seventh largest homeless population in the country, according to the latest count from HUD. (Seattle/King County is third.) In total, nearly 7,000 people in San Francisco are experiencing homelessness.
After a warning from the Department of Public Works, SPCA stopped using the robot "and handed the issue over to the robot’s maker, Mountain View-based Knightscope, for further discussion with the city," the Business Times reports. The robot can travel up to three miles an hours and is equipped with four cameras. The cameras can read license plates and send "alerts when trespassers or people on a 'blacklist' are in an area."