In Singapore, there’s a new cop in town – and it’s dishing out justice on four wheels.
A ‘ground patrol’ police robot is currently being trialled in one of the city’s main districts to detect and tackle “undesirable” behaviour.
Over the next three weeks, the robot – named Xavier – will be patrolling crowds to tackle behaviours such as smoking, illegal hawking, and bad bicycle parking.
It will also attempt to break up public gatherings of more than five people in line with the city state’s tough Covid-19 restrictions.
Using 360 degree cameras and dozens of expensive sensors, the AI-powered robot roams the streets autonomously and without any human direction.
If it detects petty rulebreakers, it sends real-time alerts to a central ‘command and control’ center, and barks orders at the offenders with a loudspeaker.
The city says that Xavier is designed to support the work of officers on foot by reducing the need for physical patrols.
“The deployment of ground robots will help to augment our surveillance and enforcement resources,” says Lily Ling, a director at the Singapore Food Agency who helped develop the robot.
“For instance, the surveillance of illegal hawkers can be manpower intensive as officers need to be deployed at various areas across the island. The adoption of robotics technology can be used to enhance such operations.”
Singapore is well-known for the extensive surveillance of its citizens. On top of the usual CCTV cameras, the Singaporean government employs drones, sensors, and facial recognition to keep a watchful eye on the population.
Controversially, the government is able to access private citizens’ mobile phone and Internet data.
Police robots are being increasingly deployed in cities across the world.
In April, the NYPD had to ‘put down’ a robotic police dog following public backlash regarding privacy concerns and its cost.