What weighs 400 pounds, stands 5-foot-3, and, according to Mayor Eric Adams, will be a valuable tool in New York City’s law enforcement efforts? To restaurant manager Mark Radlein, it looked like an oversized version of R2-D2, the droid from the “Star Wars” films. Albert Fox Cahn of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, a privacy and civil rights group, called it a “trash can on wheels.” Its name is K5, and its California-based maker, Knightscope, describes it as a “fully autonomous outdoor security robot.” It is used in hospitals, malls, airports, warehouses and casinos, and will soon be in the Times Square subway station, the city’s busiest underground transit hub, the New York Times reports. The robot, armed with four cameras, will record video but not audio. It will not employ facial recognition and as the mayor is calling for city agencies to slash 5 percent of their budgets, the cost of leasing it averages out to about $9 per hour.
“This is below minimum wage,” Adams said. “No bathroom breaks, no meal breaks.” The robot is spending two weeks mapping the station at Times Square. It will be accompanied by a human officer from midnight to 6 a.m. to introduce K5 to the public. There will be docks where K5 can recharge. Once the pilot is complete, the robot is expected to patrol the station’s mezzanine level, but not the platforms, becoming a “mobile camera” that passengers could use to call for help. The rollout of the new technology comes as the city’s subway stations are springing to life after a pandemic slump. Richard Davey, president of New York City Transit, said 4 million riders used the subway each day from Tuesday through Thursday, most likely making this the highest ridership week in three years. Adams, who once patrolled the subways as a transit cop, was elected on a promise to reduce crime without violating New Yorkers’ civil rights. He supports using technology.