San Francisco residents are apparently not adjusting well to the introduction of self-driving cars and other A.I.-driven robotics, which has led to several human-against-robot assaults over the past several months. This isn’t necessarily new news, with the first of the reported attacks taking place back in April of 2017. Bearing that in mind, incidents do seem to be escalating and this may be indicative of a wider problem that manufacturers will be facing as the technology becomes more widespread.
In December, an SPCA pet shelter was forced to remove a robotic security guard from its premises after complaints arose about the 400 Knightscope machine. In fact, one disgruntled resident is said to have gone so far as to knock it over and cover its sensors with barbecue sauce. That was followed by at least two incidents in January which involved pedestrians or other drivers physically attacking autonomous vehicles. Meanwhile, other reports have cropped up of people tipping over delivery bots on sidewalks. For clarity, none of the attacks has caused a substantial amount of damage or injuries to people. However, if the problem continues to grow it will present serious challenges for the companies involved regardless. A delivery bot that gets tipped over, for example, may not be damaged but will almost certainly fail to deliver its goods. Similarly, consumers and enterprise customers will not want to buy a self-driving car if they are forced to fix cosmetic damage on a regular basis. Security robots that can’t prevent themselves from being tipped over, on the other hand, could be viewed as pointless or ineffective.
The resulting legislative actions – such as a relatively new San Francisco ordinance limiting the number of robotic delivery devices allowed on the sidewalk – will also result in dropping sales and use. What’s more, such actions can compound the problem since they could be viewed as validation of negative sentiments towards the technology. Worse still, if the general public does begin to trust the technology, those will almost certainly take time to overturn or adapt. Unfortunately, in the meantime, it doesn’t appear this issue is going to abate anytime soon. At very least, everybody can rest assured that many companies involved in A.I. have been taking precautions against robotic technologies that learn to fight back when attacked.