In Brief
A security robot at a California shopping center has injured and run over a child, causing concern among parents and shoppers.

Automated Mishaps

Automated systems have been receiving a wave of criticism after fingers are pointed at Tesla’s autopilot system in response to a spate of car crashes involving their vehicles.

A security robot at Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, CA has run over and injured a toddler in California last week.

On that day, 16-month-old Harwin Cheng had an unfortunate encounter with the shopping center robot. “The robot hit my son’s head and he fell down facing down on the floor and the robot did not stop and it kept moving forward,” Harwin’s mom Tiffany Teng told ABC 7. After knocking the child down, the security bot ran over the child’s foot, causing some swelling. “He was crying like crazy and he never cries. He seldom cries,” Teng said. He was also left with a scrape on his leg. No serious injuries were reported from the incident.

Harwin’s parents stated, even more, worry since, they claim, a security guard told them that the same robot was involved in an injury to another child just days before.

Robot duties

Stanford Shopping Center’s security robot stands 5′ tall and weighs 300 pounds. It’s not weaponized and only serves to report incidents and document things have gone wrong.

The robot has multiple high-definition cameras for 360-degree vision, a thermal camera, a laser rangefinder, a weather sensor, a license-plate recognition camera, four microphones, and person recognition capabilities. But apparently, it needs to work on toddler-recognition skills.

The company that made the bot, Knightscope, has actually responded to the incident, inviting the mother to visit and meet their team. Stacy Stephens, Knightscope’s VP of marketing, said that many of their employees are concerned with the news, given they are parents themselves. Stephens said this was the first such incident the company has had with its machines having operated for 35,000 hours and having traveled over 25,000 miles.