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Food Delivery Robots Are Feeding Camera Footage To The LAPD

maximus otter

Recovering policeman
Aug 9, 2001
A food delivery robot company that delivers for Uber Eats in Los Angeles provided video filmed by one of its robots to the Los Angeles Police Department as part of a criminal investigation. The incident highlights the fact that delivery robots that are being deployed to sidewalks all around the country are essentially always filming, and that their footage can and has been used as evidence in criminal trials. Emails obtained by 404 Media also show that the robot food delivery company wanted to work more closely with the LAPD, which jumped at the opportunity.

The specific incident in question was a grand larceny case where two men tried (and failed) to steal a robot owned and operated by Serve Robotics, which ultimately wants to deploy “up to 2,000 robots” to deliver food for UberEats in Los Angeles. The suspects were arrested and convicted.


maximus otter
(Started with a simple reply then got carried away!)

Reading about autonomous or remotely controlled robots or drones used for delivery can be interesting. For me, the question of privacy [of the individual person or group] is somewhat intriguing. The argument oft given in defence of privacy violation is the same or very similar to that given when discussing private home or business surveillance cameras or those used by officialdom such as the police or highways monitors (such as local councils [UK]) - “If you are doing / have done nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about / no 'dog in the fight' [as it were].”. The counter to this being on the lines of “There is no reason to use surveillance on a private person or group innocently conducting their 'business' in a manner that is not illegal or harmful to themselves or others.” The debate over privacy in this manner rages on and is much better argued by the many more intelligent than me.

There is the idea that, in the UK at least, any private citizen can legally photograph anything in public that they wish. Problems only arise if the photographer points the camera into a private residence, business or other non-public area. Of course, pointing your camera deliberately at another person and photographing them or not can cause many difficulties relating to consent, perceived data protection breaches, child protection issues and so much more.

I once photographed a bridge in the distance with a telephoto lens, where my view crossed a field with horses in it. I did not point the camera at the horses at all. An irate woman came at me [she was previously out of my sight] and tried to snatch my camera and accused me of photographing the horses to sell on for criminal purposes. Long story short: I was accosted by the woman, a younger woman and a very large brutish man who try to take a swipe at me and a passing police officer happening by got involved. After voluntarily showing the police officer the images I had taken [digital] the officer pointed out to the trio that I had done nothing wrong. The pictures were of a public area taken from the public highway, there were no horses in my pictures and the field was not even in the picture. The brutish man made a lunge for me / the camera again and was warned by the officer not to do so. On leaving the scene, the officer did warn me to be careful / discreet but affirmed I had done nothing wrong.

The main problems with these delivery devices do not seem to be that the cameras are used, or even recording. Instead, the issues appear to be with how the recordings are used and whether the recordings should be shared with police on request to help determine if a crime has been committed and identify criminals. Or should the recordings be routinely / systematically given to the police regardless of any or no crime. This is compounded by the devices being owned by a private company. Many people, seemingly, are inclined to think on the lines of 'Why the hell is this private company recording me, what are they using the data for and why the hell am I being presumed guilty of… what ever.'. Rather, the businesses will proclaim that the cameras are primarily used for directional and object sensing purposes and recording the delivery only. Any person or thing caught on the recording other than for these purposes is captured incidentally. The use of these cameras is, rightly, concerning and needs talking about openly with the public as well as businesses and authorities.

Then we have the question of do the devices have or are they likely to get rights? [Some people are already anthropomorphising the devices, as can be seen online]. Should we move out of the way of some machine that is, as some might put it, cluttering the pavement? What about when such a device harms a human? Who takes responsibility for the device / human collision - the human or the operator or the business that owns the device? How about jobs being lost to these devices - or gained because of them? (Are we to be labelled as Luddites for raising concerns about these devices?) There are, I'm sure many more questions / concerns and these also require talking about openly and sensibly.

It's a 'The machines are taking over' conspiracy, surely.

To close;

I just saw an advert online for the latest Dr Who episodes and was reminded of a question / answer(s) in a way I found amusing due to the connection with this subject! How do you immobilise a Dalek? Simply throw a cloth over its optical sensors. (Or put some stairs in its way - pre levitation device.)
In post-2005 Doctor Who, the Daleks can clear their eyestalks by burning or melting off any material that might obscure their vision.


When they do this, they helpfully intone 'My vision is not impaired!'
One aspect of the potential for universal recording is the potential for inverse surveillance or sousveillance, a concept I first encountered in the writing of SF writer David Brin.

In a few decades, everybody could potentially have the capacity to record and store data about every event in their lives, as well as recording events occurring within their homes and property even when they are far away. Similar recordings could be available from cars and other vehicles, as well as from various kinds of robots which are likely to proliferate in the relatively near future. Dashboard cams are already a useful tool, not least for the detection of meteorite falls (and the absence of detection of UFOs).
There are many similar examples, such as the widely viewed YouTube video of UCLA campus policemen tasering a student. In Russia, as well as in some other countries where road users trust neither each other nor police, onboard cameras are so ubiquitous that thousands of videos of automobile accidents and near-miss incidents have been uploaded. The unanticipated 2013 Russian meteor event was well documented from a dozen angles via the use of these devices.[46] Similarly, in February 2015, dashcams caught valuable footage of the crash of TransAsia Airways Flight GE235.

Already many police forces are required to wear recording devices, although these can be disabled on certain significant occasions. If everyone wears bodycams then it doesn't matter if the police (or whoever) disable their cams. This is sousveillance, and expect it to be a big thing in the future. One way to defeat Big Brother is if we all become little brothers with cams.
About the Dr who thing; I was probably thinking of very early episodes or maybe the first film(s). I like that response, though.

It was quite interesting reading about sousveillance thank you for the link.
Based on the story I think as usual the headline is misleading. Apparently the footage was used by the police to prosecute a person trying to steal the robot that made the video. Of course that would be used. And that sentence that the robot company wants to work more closely with the police is just a red herring type of statement in my opinion. Of course they want to work more closely with LAPD, it was their proptery that was stolen.
There are a few laws in Canada that allow you to subpoena evidence through the court system.
Already many police forces are required to wear recording devices, although these can be disabled on certain significant occasions.
They're apparently off by default in the US, because many is the case where they're been "forgotten" to be turned on, and often only for that pesky inverse surveillance to rear it's head.