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Singapore Deploys Autonomous Robots to Assist in Police Patrolling

Robots have the potential to transform policing in the same way that they will change healthcare, manufacturing and the military. It is plausible that some police robots in the future will be artificially intelligent machines capable of using legitimate coercive force against humans. Police robots may reduce the risks to officers by removing them from potentially dangerous situations. Those suspected of committing crimes may also face less harm if robots can help police conduct safer detentions, arrests and searches.

To address this, two robots will be patrolling the Toa Payoh Central neighbourhood in Singapore as part of a three-week trial as of 5 September, looking for errant smokers, unlicensed hawkers, motorbike and e-scooter riders on sidewalks and gatherings that exceed the current group size limits. The robots are designed to alert public officers in real-time to these offences since they will be equipped with cameras that have a 360-degree field of vision and can see in the dark. They will also be able to broadcast and show warnings warning people about the dangers of such behaviour.

We gave this robot a new lease of life and expanded its capabilities.

– HTX’s robotics, automation, and unmanned systems centre of expertise Director

In a synthetic voice, a pre-recorded message blares out: “Please do not smoke in prohibited areas such as covered walkways.” Acting as a tireless set of eyes, the machine is an autonomous robot designed to weed out “undesirable social behaviours” that have been identified by public agencies here.

According to the five public agencies involved in the project, this is the first time an autonomous robot has been used to patrol and survey a high-traffic public area to improve public health and safety. Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX), National Environment Agency, Land Transport Authority (LTA), Singapore Food Agency, and Housing Board are the agencies involved.

The patrolling robot, developed by HTX in collaboration with the Agency for Science, Technology, and Research, will contribute to enhancing efficiency while reducing the need for manpower for foot patrols, according to the company. This is particularly true for labour-intensive operations like monitoring illegal hawkers. The latest patrolling robot is a refresh of the police’s Multi-purpose All-Terrain Autonomous Robots, or Matar, which have been deployed at large public events such as the National Day Parade, Marina Bay Countdown, and Chingay.

Over the course of four months, the system was fed publicly available data, such as images of smokers, to assist it in identifying specific behaviours. According to HTX, it lacks facial recognition capabilities. According to the authorities, the data collected, and the analytics used can help public officers gain better insights and, if necessary, activate more resources. It could, for example, provide information on new hot spots for errant active mobility device users and assist the LTA in focusing its physical enforcement efforts in these areas.

During the trial, the robots will be used for education and deterrence, rather than enforcement, the authorities said. The aim is to collect data to improve the analytics system and fine-tune any kinks. “After we analyse the results, we will make the necessary arrangements to destroy the data,” said HTX’s robotics, automation, and unmanned systems centre of expertise director.

To navigate the heartland safely, the robot is outfitted with sensors that allow it to avoid both stationary and dynamic obstacles, such as pedestrians and vehicles, along its pre-programmed patrol route. Officers at the command-and-control centre have the ability to monitor and control multiple robots at the same time. Officers can also respond to incidents remotely via the two-way intercom on the robot.

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