Why pay a human to do a job a robot can do for less? We learn today via Fusion that ride-hail company Uber has answered this question with a resounding "don't." The publication reports that the $62.5 billion company has employed the services of an autonomous, robotic security guard to protect its local driver-inspection lot.
San Francisco, meet the Knightscope K5 — "a new groundbreaking innovation in advanced physical security" that patrols 24/7. "Weighing in at 300 lbs and standing 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide, the K5 balances a commanding physical presence with an absolutely fascinating technology that provides a positive, 'state-of-the-art' image for your operations," reads the company's website. "This technology changes everything and is especially needed as the world continues to become more and more volatile."
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has in the past spoken of his desire to embrace self-driving cars, and his company has partnered with Carnegie Mellon University to develop "autonomy technology," and now that same penchant for doing away with the need for humans (as employees, not customers) appears to have manifested itself right here in San Francisco — off 15th and Vermont Street to be precise.
Interestingly, this robotic security guard was neither purchased nor developed by Uber. Instead, the company rents it from developer Knightscope at the cost of $7 an hour. As Fusion points out, this is significantly less than a security guard would command in wages.
“For the cost of a single-shift security guard, you get a machine that will patrol for 24 hours a day 7 days a week,” Knightscope's marketing VP, Stacy Stephens, told the publication.
But just what, exactly, do these things do? Should a would-be trespasser be afraid of Robocop-style enforcement? Well, no. The K5 mostly patrols, records, and notifies humans if anything appears amiss. And besides, traveling at speeds of 1 to 3 miles an hour, the thing is not exactly going to chase you down.
Knightscope is based right here in Silicon Valley, and, according to the company's FAQ page, was founded in 2013 in response to the Sandy Hook mass shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing. "The founders believed that with a unique combination of hardware and software, they could greatly reduce crime... by as much as 50%!" the FAQ explains.
While that last claim remains unproven, we can be sure of one thing: The Knightscope K5 patrolling Uber's lot in San Francisco has reduced employment... by as much as one security guard job.