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Parents watch in horror as security robot runs over their child

A 300-pound autonomous security robot at the Stanford Shopping Mall in Palo Alto, California collided with 16-month-old Harwin Cheng last Thursday as he was walking several steps ahead of his parents.

The Tengs saw the robot slowly approaching them and suddenly they were watching in horror as the robot knocked their son to the floor and kept right on moving, running over the boy’s right foot.

“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 News. “He was crying like crazy and he never cries. He seldom cries,” Teng said.

Luckily, Harwin didn’t suffer any serious injuries other than a bruised right foot and a scrape on the knee. The parents are saying the machine is dangerous. By going public, they hope to get the word out to prevent others from getting hurt.

The Knightscope Autonomous Data Machine
Gizmodo reports that the robot was developed by Knightscope, a Silicon Valley start-up located in Mountain View. The company advertises two robots, the K3 and K5. The machines are called Autonomous Data Machines (ADMs).

The K5 involved in the incident stands fice feet tall and resembles a squat, white rocket, or a very toned-down R2-D2 character from Star Wars. K5 is a “force multiplier, data gatherer, and your smart eyes and ears on the ground both inside and outdoors,” says the company.

The ADM uses sensors, lasers and a huge amount of code as it roams a geo-fenced area autonomously, on its own in a random pattern, or based on a selected patrolling algorithm. Knightscope claims that over time, ADMs will be able to “see, feel, hear and smell, enabling a unique approach to sensor fusion and analytics.”

Problems with autonomous driving technology?
But even with the K5’s capabilities, for some reason it did not sense the toddler, not did it come to a halt when it collided with him. When the Knightscope K5 senses trouble, it is programmed to alert local authorities, although it didn’t seem too interested in alerting anyone when it ran into the child.

For some reason, the robot’s sensors didn’t detect Harwin, and that is the big problem. Knightscope says that the K5 has over 30 sensors, but the small child appeared to confuse the machine. And because computers and autonomous driving technology capabilities are dependent on humans, it looks like the Knightscope K5 is sitting in the same boat as Tesla Motors.

The “blind-spots” in the K5 ADM and with Tesla’s AutoPilot systems need to be reexamined and fine-tuned before the public becomes totally comfortable around the new technology.

Written By

Karen Graham is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for environmental news. Karen's view of what is happening in our world is colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in man's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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