The city of Dubai is planning to make robots 25 percent of its police force by 2030, which would enable better communication between police and tourists.
The city on May 21 revealed its first robot police officer, which will patrol malls and tourist attractions. People will be able to use a touchscreen on the robot’s chest to report crimes, pay fines, and get information.
City officials said the robots won’t replace human police officers.
The robot, which was built by PAL Robotics, can communicate only in Arabic and English, but it will soon be able to communicate in Russian, Chinese, French, and Spanish.
Dubai is the fourth most visited city in the world after London, Paris, and Bangkok. These robot police officers would be able to communicate more effectively to the tourist population.
New York City is the fifth most visited city, according to Forbes. In 2015, New York received 12.3 million foreign visitors. The top five countries that these tourists traveled from were the United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil, China, and France. City officials could consider investing in a police robot that could communicate with New York’s tourist population.
When police robots take their jobs further than helpful communication, ethics experts start to debate.
In China, the E-Patrol Robot Sheriff, which was introduced in February, can cross-reference faces against police databases, and when the robot detects a wanted person it will follow them until the police arrive. The Russia Foundation for Advanced Research Projects is developing a robot that can use tools, drive cars, and shoot guns at targets.
Dubai is planning to upgrade its police robot so it can perform all the usual functions of a normal police officer; however, it won’t be allowed to carry a gun. PAL Robotics said that giving the robot a weapon would cross a line.
Artificial intelligence experts have seen examples of bias in certain technologies’ algorithms, including facial recognition technology detecting white faces, but not black faces. These biases pose serious considerations for advocates of robot policing.
“Our biggest concern is that armed robots will be over-used,” Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst, for the American Civil Liberties Union Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, said in a blog post in December. “As robots allow deadly force to be applied more easily and with less risk to police officers, and as they get cheaper and more commonplace, there is a risk that they will turn into yet another avenue for abusive behavior by some in law enforcement.”
Another concern is the cybersecurity measures it will take to keep these robots secure.
“Policymakers should remember that these devices can create new security concerns, including from hackers,” Stanley said. “There are plentiful examples of drones, cars, and medical devices being remotely hacked, and police robots would not be immune.”
The ACLU said that police robots, if used at all, should be under the control of a human operator. Fully autonomous robots pose more concerns because if the robot makes a mistake and harms a human, there would be no one to hold accountable.
“It is easy to think up scenarios where weaponized robots might save the day, but such scenarios are likely to be rare,” Stanley said. “Even though the use of lethal remote force can be constitutionally permissible, a wholehearted embrace of such devices by law enforcement would be dangerous.”