Roadblocks to Autonomous Security Robots

As artificial intelligence continues to advance, a greater number of applications for AI-based software emerge. One of the primary uses for AI is robotics development, as more industries use robots to pack orders, build structures, apply paint and detect anomalies in data. From architecture to retail, various sectors are leveraging robots to improve operational efficiency, create safer work environments and complement a human workforce.


One field benefiting from the use of robots is security. Finding innovative ways to enhance preventive security measures and improving existing law enforcement methods has been a challenge. But using robotics for security purposes is no longer a thing of science fiction. Companies like Knightscope are actively working to create a line of security robots that monitor their surroundings using 360-degree cameras to predict and prevent instances of crime.


However, there are concerns regarding the use of fully autonomous security robots which may get in the way of bringing them to market. Whether those concerns are legitimate or not may impact how quickly robotics will be adopted for security purposes.


Below is more information about the recent developments in the field of security robots and some of the roadblocks that may influence their future adoption.


Recent Innovations in Security Robots

According to Knightscope, the startup based in Silicon Valley, the ultimate goal of using security robots is to make the U.S. the safest country in the world. Their more recent products include the K1, K3, K5 and K7 autonomous robots. Each is meant for a specific purpose and environment.


For example, the K5 is perfect for outdoor use, as it can move around on its own without human intervention. K5 comes in at 5 feet tall and 300 pounds, and is equipped with a Lidar sensor, 16 lasers in the halo and five in the body.


In addition, a GPS sensor and complex wheel odometry help the robot make 3D maps of the environment every 20 milliseconds.


On the other hand, the K7 is a multi-terrain, four-wheeled robot meant to monitor the perimeter of airports and other public areas. Each robot is specifically designed to capture the domain it’s in, which is then reviewed by a human in an on-site control room.


There have been some hiccups in the robots’ first outings in San Francisco, Huntington and Washington, D.C. Whether it was taking a tumble into a decorative fountain or accidentally rolling over a toddler's foot, the robots have yet to be perfected.


Aside from Knightscope, another company with a heavy hand in the robotics sector is Cobalt Robotics. It focuses on using robots for security, facilities management, environmental health and generating revenue.


Cobalt uses a robotics-as-a-service (RaaS) model, so businesses can leverage the advanced technology by paying a monthly fee. The fee also covers any software updates necessary to improve the robots' performance. So far, Cobalt has raised a total of $50 million in funding, enhancing its ability to develop high-end robotics for its customers.


Potential Roadblocks Facing the Security Robotics Field

So, what concerns arise when incorporating robots into daily life?


1. Ethical Concerns

Because these robots are capable of surveilling public areas, some ethical concerns arise when it comes to ensuring citizen privacy. In some ways, entering a general area means privacy is hard to achieve.


Some robots in public have elicited some unfavorable reactions. For example, people who live outdoors due to homelessness may feel uncomfortable knowing that a robot is keeping an eye on them. While the concept of using security cameras in public places is not new, robots roaming the streets raise concerns. It's not hard to imagine a time when robots reach a level of autonomy that would present a challenge to humans. While science fiction movies are not a great example of reality, there are still fears regarding robots in the public eye.


It's possible that autonomous robots may present threats to humans in the future, which is why robotics engineers need to work closely with ethics experts to mitigate any associated risks.


2. Military Applications

Using robots to complement human police officers is one thing, but equipping these autonomous machines with weapons brings up more concerns.


Military personnel have relied on advanced technology to engage in war for years. Whether it was the development of the automatic rifle or using drones for surveillance or assassination, security robots are carving out a place in the armed forces. Militaries use technology to gain a competitive advantage over their opponents, and the implementation of security robots may be inevitable.


More collaboration between governments and militaries is necessary to address the growing ethical concerns over using autonomous machines to carry out attacks. And some private companies that dominate the robotics market want to supply armies with robots that wield weapons while also developing tech to sell to domestic police forces.


It's worth noting that many police units that enforce the law in local communities are beginning to look more like militaries than anything else. With armed drones and tanks roaming the streets, it's no surprise that some are worried about the authoritarian nature of militarized police units.


3. Legal Questions

Suppose an armed security robot had a technical issue and caused injury or even death to a public member. How would legislation play a role in these circumstances? How would law enforcement react, and who would be held accountable?


There’s evidence to support that there are already existing issues with humans using guns — some lack the basic safety knowledge regarding guns, which can cause preventable shooting accidents. Understandably, there are fears of autonomous machines operating firearms. There are plenty of ways individuals can improve their knowledge of using firearms, but can the same be said about autonomous security robots?


It's fair to say that equipping robots with guns brings up legal questions. Because AI-based machines are still in their infancy, it's challenging to know how to apply laws in these various situations. More research is needed to identify and create legislation encompassing all of the potential risks of using armed, AI-based robots.


While these are only some examples of possible roadblocks facing autonomous security robots, they may likely get in the way of this technology entering the consumer market. And while some investors believe this technology could revolutionize various industries, it's essential to note people's rising concerns regarding autonomous technologies.


The Future of Autonomous Security Robots

Based on current trends, it's likely that autonomous robots will become more commonplace in the upcoming decades. While the tech may not replace humans, it's expected that more businesses will see the value of autonomous robots and decide to implement them into their operations. It will be interesting to learn more about the role of autonomous robots in the field of security.


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