After a trial period of nearly six months, the New York Police Department has decided to discontinue the use of the K5 autonomous robot in the bustling midtown subway stations of New York City. This mobile surveillance robot, once considered a high-tech solution to crime prevention, is now being removed following criticism from New Yorkers and privacy advocates who viewed it as more of a costly gimmick than a meaningful security measure.
While the K5 may no longer be present in the subway system, city officials have not completely ruled out the possibility of reintroducing it in the future. The controversial robot, manufactured by Knightscope, has wrapped up its pilot deployment in the NYC subway.
According to a spokesperson for New York’s Deputy Commissioner of Public Information, the K5 is no longer deployed in transit, having been spotted parked in a deserted storefront by a reporter from The New York Times. Reports from a spokesperson for Mayor Eric Adams’ administration revealed that the robot has been in storage since early December.
Background of the NYPD’s Use of the Robot
The Knightscope K5 robot, introduced with much fanfare by Mayor Eric Adams last April in Times Square, was intended to enhance safety and order in the subways alongside police officers. However, it failed to live up to expectations and was eventually banished to a vacant storefront.
The K5, described by Knightscope as a “fully autonomous” security robot equipped with four cameras for video recording (without audio), is capable of a maximum speed of 3 miles per hour and offers a 360-degree range of motion, although it cannot navigate stairs. While private businesses like hospitals, warehouses, and malls have utilized the K5 for security purposes, Adams initially praised its ability to patrol long hours without breaks.
At a press conference last year, Adams highlighted the cost-efficiency of the robot, stating, “This is below minimum wage. No bathroom breaks, no meal breaks.” The NYPD reportedly paid $9 per hour to lease the K5, with the pilot program costing a total of $12,250.
Mayor Adams’ Vision for Security
Mayor Eric Adams emphasized the importance of utilizing advanced technologies like the Knightscope K5 security robot to ensure the safety of New Yorkers. He believed that such devices would serve as innovative crime deterrents, contributing to keeping NYC the safest big city in America.
When the NYPD first announced the use of the K5 under Adams’ leadership, it was intended to patrol the subway during late night hours. However, the robot’s performance ultimately fell short of expectations, leading to its retirement from active duty in the city’s transit system.