News

Parents upset after Stanford Shopping Center security robot knocks down toddler

Three-hundred pound autonomous machine allegedly ran over boy in 'freak accident'

The parents of a 17-month-old boy say a Stanford Shopping Center security robot knocked down their son and ran over his foot before they were able to get him out of the way.

Tiffany Teng and Eric Cheng of San Jose were shopping at the mall, located on El Camino Real, on July 7 when their son, Harwin, was struck by the autonomous robot and knocked to the ground, they said.

Harwin had been walking in front of them near the Splendid and Armani Exchange shops when he collided with the robot, which was moving toward them. The boy struck his head on the robot and was knocked to the ground and onto his face as it continued to move forward. After the boy fell, the robot did not stop, but instead continued to move forward, running over Harwin's right foot, Teng said.

But the Mountain View company that makes the robots, Knightscope, Inc., maintains that the Star Wars-like robot is safe and has clocked thousands of hours of operation and human-robot interaction without injuring anyone. The company doesn't deny the accident occurred, but it characterized the incident as a freak accident.

The encounter between the child and machine occurred around 2:30 p.m. In terms of height, girth and weight, Harwin was outnumbered. The boy is 32 inches tall and weighs about 25 pounds; Knightscope's K5 model stands 5 feet in height, weighs 300 pounds and is 3-feet wide, according to the company's website.

When Harwin went down and the robot did not stop or retreat, Teng said she was horrified.

"I screamed. I went in front of the robot and I tried to push it with all of my strength. It was just too heavy," she said.

Teng was able to move Harwin's left foot away before one of the K5's wheels ran over it, after rolling over his right foot. Her husband pulled the boy from under the robot before he was further run over, she said. Harwin was screaming.

A nearby retailer called a human security guard, Teng said. An ambulance arrived after about 30 minutes and took the boy to a hospital, where he was released after an examination. His pediatrician conducted a follow-up exam on Monday. The doctor did not think that Harwin had any internal bleeding or broken bones, Teng said.

Meanwhile, Stanford Shopping Center has taken its K5 robots offline.

Knightscope markets the robot as having "a commanding presence," and the rental rate is $6.50 an hour. The robot, which scans the environment looking for unusual activity, use 30 sensors to detect movement and sound from an inch away to more than 300 feet, Knightscope said in an incident report the company released on Wednesday afternoon. Its 360-degree view is uploaded in real time to a security network, which provides human security guards with data they can access from their smartphones regardless of where they are in the mall.

The security robots have become popular with mall guests, who frequently take "robot selfies" and give "robot hugs." But Harwin's parents were clearly not feeling the love last week, and they were further upset after hearing a member of the Stanford Shopping Center security staff say the robot had recently hit another child in the same week, Teng said.

In either case, the robot would have recorded the entire incident.

Knightscope issued a field incident report on Wednesday afternoon, claiming that the child "left the vicinity of his guardians and began running toward the machine. The machine veered to the left to avoid the child, but the child ran backwards directly into the front quart of the machine, at which point the machine stopped and the child fell to the ground."

"The machine's sensors registered no vibration alert and the machine motors did not fault as they would when encountering an obstacle. Once the guardians retrieved the child and the path was clear, the machine resumed patrolling. The entire incident lasted a few seconds and a scrape on the child's leg and a bruise with minor swelling were reported," the incident report stated.

Teng questioned why, if another child was injured, the shopping center did not take action at that time. She sent the shopping center's management, Simon Property Group, an email after the incident asking for answers to that question.

"We would like to understand if your management was aware of these events, what steps you had taken after the previous incident to prevent further problems, and why these have failed," she wrote.

The company, through its general manager for Stanford Shopping Center, did not respond to the parents' question. Shopping center officials declined to respond to additional inquiries made by the Weekly regarding any prior incidents.

General Manager Josh Kalkhorst did offer an apology in a brief reply to the parents and promised to make a few inquiries regarding the incident.

Knightscope denied that the robots, which travel at about 1 mph, have had any other accidents.

"There have been thousands of encounters with adults, children and both large and small pets documented daily on social media that have also taken place without any reported incidents," the company stated.

Knightscope said that company representatives reached out to the family "on numerous occasions without reply."

"The company is, therefore, publicly extending a formal apology for the freakish accident and is extending an invitation to the family to meet at Knightscope's headquarters in Mountain View to learn more about the technology," the company statement stated.

Teng said she received a voicemail from the company on Tuesday, which she planned to respond to on Wednesday afternoon.

"I don't want a tour. All I want is an answer why this robot didn't stop. It's not Disneyland," she said.

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Comments

49 people like this
Posted by charles
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 14, 2016 at 12:37 am

17 Months.?? Come on parents watch your kids. Its a mall not a park. Smh


33 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2016 at 7:49 am

Toddlers run and fall all the time at this age, they often run looking backwards and bump into things. This toddler will get bumped and scraped when running on his own. It is a good thing he ran into a smooth large object rather than run into an elderly person who took too long to get out of his way and knocked them over.


22 people like this
Posted by No Excuse
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2016 at 8:48 am

The robot knocked the child down and THEN ran over his foot-- it still did not stop, and would have run over his other foot had the father not pulled him out from under it.

That robot weighs 300 pounds-- what if it had run over and crushed an elderly person?

The mom tried to stop the robot by pushing against it, but couldn't. There should be a mechanism that prevents it from bumping into or running over people and objects! It's called safety!


24 people like this
Posted by shaken not stirred
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 14, 2016 at 8:57 am

"Knightscope markets the robot as having "a commanding presence," and the rental rate is $6.50 an hour. The robot, which scans the environment looking for unusual activity, use 30 sensors to detect movement and sound from an inch away to more than 300 feet, "

So for $6.50 an hour everything we say or do at the mall (if we happen to encounter the bot within 300 ft and you may not be aware it is near) is being recorded, and saved where? for how long?

There are more issues here than just the kid being mowed over.


47 people like this
Posted by Pete McNesbitt
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2016 at 9:11 am

Teng hopes that by sharing the story, other parents will be careful the next time they’re at Stanford Shopping Center. We are all for it, anything that stops parents letting their children run around shopping centres has to be encouraged. If a killer robot does not put the fear of god into parents so that they hang onto to their precious snowflakes nothing will.


9 people like this
Posted by watcher
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 14, 2016 at 9:12 am

People seem to think this is a friendly robot and many children run up to it - there really isn't any explanation of what it's purpose is or any "caution" signs around it. It is actually kind of annoying because I've seen it follow people and get close to people who were just trying to walk by it. Not surprised this happened.


17 people like this
Posted by Pete McNesbitt
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2016 at 9:16 am

The shopping center introduced the robot last year. It’s designed to alert authorities of abnormal noises, sudden environmental changes, and known criminals.

But the fact that it didn’t seem to detect Harwin is something shoppers find disconcerting. Of course the fact that he was very small and might have slipped below the radar does not appear to have occured to anyone.


38 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 14, 2016 at 9:34 am

This is very peculiar reporting ....

-- Tiffany Teng and Eric Cheng of San Jose were shopping at the mall,
-- located on El Camino Real, on July 7 when their son, Harwin, was
-- struck by the autonomous robot and knocked to the ground, ...

Later the report was the kid ran into the machine? Which was it?

Was any real harm done? I think that is the legal criterion for action.
If they just want the robot to be fixed so this doesn't happen again or
to fix a problem, that is constructive.

I find it annoying that a lot of parents push their kids out there and do
not control them or monitor them, so perhaps there is some contributory
negligence here as well. As the article states there have been years of
interactions and thousands of people who have been around this robot
with not problem.

So, is this being floated by a lawyer to see if public opinion support
a lawsuit, because to me that seems despicable over a kid falling down.


39 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 14, 2016 at 10:17 am

This story makes no sense to me, and I can't understand why the parents want this kind of publicity, especially when it reflects badly on them. Sounds as though the robot reacted appropriately and the toddler was determined to crash into it anyway. There are lots of people with dogs that are smaller than a toddler who regularly cruise the mall without harm. I see lots of people taking pictures with the robot. It's been a fun addition to the shopping experience as well as a useful one.

Since the parents were thoughtful enough to give their son such an unusual name, this incident will probably rise to the top of the list whenever he googles himself for the next 20 years. Nice work, parents!

As for those of you concerned about privacy: get over it. I sure hope there are many surveillance cameras at a place like Stanford mall, so take that as a given and comport yourself appropriately.


39 people like this
Posted by jayches
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 14, 2016 at 10:25 am

jayches is a registered user.

I think pediatricians call this sort of reaction "first child syndrome".


72 people like this
Posted by Pam
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 14, 2016 at 10:28 am

I work at he shopping center and watch the robots constantly. Unless you actually run into the thing, it's not getting near you. In fact, they move AWAY from people - kids jump all over these things, people talk to them - no problem.

The parents own this one. I cannot imagine how this kid [18 months!!!] got so close in the first place. What was the mom thinking?

My opinion - Stanford is a great target for irresponsible or careless caretakers. There is more danger of tripping and falling than of one of these things actually harming you. We need to stop regressing as a society and realize we own our own behavior.


25 people like this
Posted by bob
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 14, 2016 at 10:42 am

Teng hopes that by sharing this, other parents will be safer while shopping at the mall? That, and a quick paycheck. Thanks for the parenting advice genius. We will all try to be safe, not let our infants run into big robots and get trapped underneath. So far it hasn't happened yet with my 4 kids but I was worried about that. My usual watching them and keeping them away from large moving objects game needs to be stepped up.


15 people like this
Posted by Robot love
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 14, 2016 at 10:43 am

The point is that when you put R2D2 in a shopping center and you are creating an amusement park. Most any reasonable child will want to go and hug the adorable robot.


8 people like this
Posted by Mike Alexander
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jul 14, 2016 at 10:52 am

Why apologize for the robot? Why blame the people? If an inattentive, clumsy, slow-reacting 300-pound adult knocked a child down and then stepped on him, wouldn't you blame the adult? And if the robot "saw" the child, let's see the robot's video.


47 people like this
Posted by Suze
a resident of another community
on Jul 14, 2016 at 10:59 am

If these parents are truly on a mission to warn others to watch their children more carefully, then I have no problem with their message.

I have been around this robot frequently and Knightscope's report is entirely credible. I have no doubt that the parents allowed their child to run, unsupervised, toward the robot and then, as toddlers do, run erratically as the robot tried to avoid him. He was not badly injured and as others have observed, will no doubt sustain greater injuries as he grows.

If their mission is to gain some sort of compensation for this incident, shame on them. I hope that's not the case.


37 people like this
Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 14, 2016 at 11:03 am

@ Charles
As a parent of 4 (now adults) I completely agree!! I am sure they could see this robot coming before the incident occurred. **PARENTS, take responsibility and WATCH YOUR KIDS.**
Why are the people our country hell bent on blaming others for our own issues!?!


9 people like this
Posted by Wonder
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 14, 2016 at 11:22 am

[Post removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by It's ugly
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 14, 2016 at 11:30 am

People obsessed with money think this family is also obsessed with money. Believe it or not, not all of us turn every experience into money.

That robot is so ugly, it should be removed for that reason alone.


15 people like this
Posted by Unconvinced
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 14, 2016 at 11:34 am

Parents of a small child should be vigilant at all times. I think the whole story is peculuar. And the parents should be advised to take better care of their child, rather than trying to blame a robot.


28 people like this
Posted by Lenora
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 14, 2016 at 11:37 am

That is what happens when you don't watch your child. The child was running after the robot. I saw it all happen. Now the parents are complaining? Please. Get a harness for your hyper active child or better yet, keep him in his stroller! [Portion removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by susie
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 14, 2016 at 12:07 pm

[Post removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by Robocop
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 14, 2016 at 12:28 pm

"This is very peculiar reporting ....

-- Tiffany Teng and Eric Cheng of San Jose were shopping at the mall,
-- located on El Camino Real, on July 7 when their son, Harwin, was
-- struck by the autonomous robot and knocked to the ground, ...

Later the report was the kid ran into the machine? Which was it?"

I think the first was how the parents perceived what happened (robot rampage) vs. what the data collected by the robot actually showed. I sort of trust the robot's version of events than the parent's.

I for one welcome our new robot overlords.


6 people like this
Posted by pamom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 14, 2016 at 12:40 pm

Come on people! These parents aren't cruising malls to deliberately cause harm to their child for profit! Be reasonable and use your brain. The child "was walking ahead of the parents" which is the best way to watch a toddler and allow him to move by himself. The robot constitutes an "attractive nuisance" under the law - of course little children will be attracted to it. The robot needs to be programmed to avoid very small people.


15 people like this
Posted by those darn kids
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2016 at 12:57 pm

I see the normal judgy folks came out again today in force, that forget what it's like to have toddlers. No matter how closely you watch your children, they run, they do unexpected things, they explore.

I had one child that was a runner. Short of putting a leash on him, I couldn't keep him by my side for long, he loved running just out of my grasp every chance he could. God forbid I attend to my other child, or glance the other direction for a second. Now he's a fast soccer player, much better behaved in public.

Malls were a safer place to bring him after parks, because no cars!

Those toddlers! Have some empathy people.


5 people like this
Posted by Rex
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 14, 2016 at 1:25 pm

@thosedarnkids. Amen, glad to see some common sense on yet another 'blame the parents' thread. Someone said let kids run in the park. Oh the parks with the skateboards and the bicycles and now the Pokemon Go players wandering while looking down at their screens?

Did they all miss the main complaint that the robot ran over the child first with one set of wheels and was about to run over him again with its second set of wheels before the Dad pulled him away? That's a safety flaw. Here's a suggestion: put some sensors at the bottom and under the stupid thing, and program it to pause in place and make a warning beep when it encounters an unusually bulky object.

Can you imagine this thing during the busy holiday season when crowds are all dodging and weaving with big bags? I see a lot of doggies at this mall who could get a paw snagged under that thing too. Sadly, that would probably get more compassionate responses.


9 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 14, 2016 at 1:29 pm

My first child was a runner at this age, and took great delight in escaping from his adult caregivers. We had more than a few incidents occur at this very mall! The difference is that I increased my vigilance [portion removed.] The mall is full of "attractive nuisances" of which the robot is among the more benign.


18 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2016 at 1:50 pm

To those of you who think it is alright to let a toddler run around in a public place without holding an adult hand, if that toddler ran into an elderly person and knocked them over, would you still feel it appropriate behavior to allow a toddler to run free?

A busy mall is full of dangers and careful monitoring is necessary. Saying that however, a child of that age is definitely going to get bumps and scrapes too.


2 people like this
Posted by DES
a resident of Southgate
on Jul 14, 2016 at 2:21 pm

This is what is known as BAD Design. Before Ralph Nader, everybody blamed the drivers, not the cars. Every piece of automated factory equipment the world over sports the universal large red mushroom button so that anybody can shut if off. Where's the red mushroom button? Unless the manufacturer has achieved omniscience, they should assume that the robot will malfunction or encounter an unanticipated situation and that an unforeseen emergency will result.


16 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 14, 2016 at 2:50 pm

I want to see the full video tape of the incident.


9 people like this
Posted by midtown mom
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 14, 2016 at 3:28 pm

the parents say the robot continued to move after contact with the child - while the report from Knightscope states the robot stopped immediately and only proceeded after the child was removed. Both cannot be true. I think the parents should take up the offer of meeting at the company headquarters - maybe after they watch the video, they will either have a legit complaint they can boast about - or the will see that the robot did not actually do anything wrong, and will shut the heck up.


3 people like this
Posted by Shame
a resident of Monroe Park
on Jul 14, 2016 at 4:39 pm

Does the kid have a red mushroom button?
With a fancy snowflake name he should come with one


22 people like this
Posted by Slacker
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 14, 2016 at 6:29 pm

I'd be surprised if the video shows something close to what the parent(s) stated. That robot stops on a dime.

Accidents happen (especially with young children). I'd say "no harm, no foul", count my blessings, and go on with my life.


16 people like this
Posted by R2D2
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 14, 2016 at 6:48 pm

"The company is, therefore, publicly extending a formal apology for the freakish accident and is extending an invitation to the family to meet at Knightscope's headquarters in Mountain View to learn more about the technology,"

I take "learn more about the technology" to mean "let us show you how our technology has a complete record of the event and can prove your version of the facts is wrong"

No wonder she wont go.


7 people like this
Posted by Alan
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 14, 2016 at 10:47 pm

I'd like to see an actual video of the incident before making a judgment about what actually happened. That robot makes enough noise and doesn't move fast enough to actually catch anyone one off guard. If the kid wanted to avoid the robot he could have avoided it.

I hope the parents are not angling for a lawsuit over a scrape and a bruise.


2 people like this
Posted by Got Message?
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 14, 2016 at 11:43 pm

What message did you get?
I got the message that if my child is below the sensor's minimum height awareness, my child, or lap dog, may get run over by a 300 lb. machine that only reacts to what it can detect within it's range of sensors.

That information is worth spreading because this child could have fared worse after this incident.

If you've had a toddler then you know that accidents could happen no matter how vigilant you are as a care taker. It must have been frightening to see a 300 pound metal object rolling over a child. I appreciate the parent's desire to warn the public. There is a flaw in the design of this robot for public spaces due to it's limitation in sensing its environment.


4 people like this
Posted by Got Message?
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 14, 2016 at 11:47 pm

...There is a a flaw in the design of this robot for public spaces due to its limitation in sensing and REACTING to its environment...


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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