Incident 261: Robot Deployed by Animal Shelter to Patrol Sidewalks outside Its Office, Warding off Homeless People in San Francisco

Description: Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) deployed a Knightscope robot to autonomously patrol the area outside its office and ward off homeless people, which was criticized by residents as a tool of intimidation and ordered by the city of San Francisco to stop its use on a public right-of-way.


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Khoa Lam
Security robot that deterred homeless encampments in the Mission gets rebuke from the city · 2017

San Francisco residents continue to rage against the machines.

While the city's Board of Supervisors moves toward finalizing limits on robots that roam the sidewalks to deliver food and goods, it must also find a way to handle security robo…

Robots are being used to shoo away homeless people in San Francisco · 2017

The San Francisco branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has been ordered by the city to stop using a robot to patrol the sidewalks outside its office, the San Francisco Business Times reported Dec. 8.

The rob…

Security robots are being used to ward off San Francisco’s homeless population · 2017

Is it worse if a robot instead of a human is used to deter the homeless from setting up camp outside places of business?

One such bot cop recently took over the outside of the San Francisco SPCA, an animal advocacy and pet adoption clinic i…

Security robot bullied and forced off the street in San Francisco · 2017

A robot patrolling a street in San Francisco to ward off homeless people has been removed after complaints from locals, who also knocked it over and smeared it with feces.

The Knightscope K5 security robot was deployed by the San Francisco …

Animal shelter faces backlash after using robot to scare off homeless people · 2017

An animal shelter in San Francisco has been criticized for using a robot security guard to scare off homeless people.

The San Francisco branch of the SPCA (the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) hired a K5 robot built by Knig…

Crime-fighting robot retired after launching alleged ‘war on the homeless’ · 2017

Like so many classic Western anti-heroes before him, he rolled (literally) into town with a singular goal in mind: cleaning up the streets, which had become a gritty hotbed of harassment, vandalism, break-ins and grift.

The only difference …

Big Brother on wheels? Fired security robot divides local homeless people · 2017

To some homeless people, San Francisco’s latest security robot was a rolling friend on five wheels that they called “R2-D2 Two”. To others living in tents within the droid’s radius, it was the “anti-homeless robot”.

For a month, the 400lb, …

The Tricky Ethics of Knightscope's Crime-Fighting Robots · 2017

In November, the San Francisco SPCA deployed a 5-foot-tall, 400-pound robot to patrol its campus. Not for muscle, mind you, but for surveillance. The SPCA, a large complex nestled in the northeast corner of the city's Mission neighborhood, …


A "variant" is an incident that shares the same causative factors, produces similar harms, and involves the same intelligent systems as a known AI incident. Rather than index variants as entirely separate incidents, we list variations of incidents under the first similar incident submitted to the database. Unlike other submission types to the incident database, variants are not required to have reporting in evidence external to the Incident Database. Learn more from the research paper.