Singapore testing robots to patrol pedestrian areas for ‘undesirable social behaviors’

Apparently, not even the profession of law enforcement can evade automation.

Five public agencies in Singapore are collaborating to test a ground robot this month. Since Sunday, a robot named Xavier has been patrolling high-foot traffic areas for "undesirable social behaviors" such as the following: 

  • Smoking in prohibited areas.
  • Illegal hawking (peddling illegal goods or soliciting donations illegally).
  • Improperly parked bicycles within HDB Hub.
  • Congregation of more than five people (in line with prevailing Safe Management Measures).
  • Motorized active mobility devices and motorcycles on footpaths.

If Xavier spots a violation, alerts will be triggered to the command and control center and Xavier will display the appropriate message, hoping to deter violators.

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Officials say Xavier will lighten the workload for officers and reduce the manpower needed for certain offenses.

"Xavier can potentially augment our enforcement presence and deter errant active mobility behavior on footpaths," said Calvin Ng, Land Transport Authority’s Director of Enforcement and Compliance Management. "It could also provide intelligence on new hotspots or areas where egregious active mobility users have been spotted to help focus our physical enforcement efforts."

If you’re expecting a humanoid-style robot walking the streets like in Edward Neumeier’s "Robocop" franchise, think again. Xavier does not have legs, or arms or weapons. It can only roll on its four wheels and display messages on its screen.


It’s not exactly "Robocop," but robots that can detect "undesirable social behaviors" are being tested this month in Singapore. (Source: HTX)

Even so, Cheng Wee Kiang, Director of HTX’s Robotics, said Xavier is highly versatile and can be customized for broad and widespread application in different fields and operational environments. Its cameras offer a 360-degree visual. And it’s equipped with sensors that allow it to avoid colliding with objects, people and vehicles.

"With Xavier, we are able to force multiply agencies beyond the Home Team by augmenting their workforce needs and achieve greater operational efficiency on a single robotic platform," Kiang said. "This synergy enables government agencies to build a strong ops-tech ecosystem and continue enhancing public health and safety."

HTX has previously developed another street robot called M.A.T.A.R. (Multi-purpose All-Terrain Autonomous Robot) Police have deployed it for occasions such as National Day parades, Marina Bay Countdown and Chingay.

This story was reported from Atlanta.