Robot security guard patrols San Francisco gas station

- Robots are popping up at corporations, campuses, shopping malls and airports. 

But at a gas station? 

A San Francisco Shell station has a robot as extra security for those at the pumps. 

"I'm waiting for Robocop to come out anytime and say you're under arrest," joked customer Traci Lim, who was taking cell phone video of the robot as she filled up.

Lim and other patrons at the SoMa station are amused, perplexed and curious.

"What's that for anyway?" asked another customer, watching the dome shaped device spin and pace within a 6-7 foot space.  

"I haven't seen it do anything but what it's doing right now, hiding, that's security I guess, " said customer Tommy Anderson, "not if it talks to you, says 'Hey how you doing, you're not supposed to be on this property, please move, then it would be doing something." 

The robot has four cameras, each aimed a different direction, to capture multiple angles. 

"If I see him bust somebody, tackle a shoplifter, then I'll be impressed," smiled customer Derrick Sorenson, "but until then, watching it spin in circles, I'm just scratching my head." 

The high-tech crime stopper won't be chasing anyone down. Top speed is 3 mph, about the same pace as a person walking. 

But it is continuously scanning and recording, in its pod-shaped shell, which is 3 feet wide, 5 feet tall, and weighs 400 pounds. 

"Customers are confused because they've never seen a robot like this before," said clerk Nibyat Kefyalew. "And we're all confused too because we've ever seen a robot like this either." 

Employees didn't know, and the station owner wasn't present, to explain why a gas station laden with security cameras, needs a robot. 

But the location, at 8th and Harrison streets, does see its share of assault, auto break-ins and theft
And the robot can call police, which a regular camera can't do. 

"The company website says it can track 300 license plates in a minute, " said neighbor Brian King, "and it can track cell phone information too."

King's apartment is one floor above the gas station, and he has set up a live-stream of the robot's activity and reaction to it. 

"People are both thrilled and terrified to see it, "said King, noting that watchers on the web are speculating about how long the bot will last before it's brutalized by those who don't like the "big brother" aspect.   

"It's still unscathed, no graffiti on it, and no other stuff either, it's doing well," said King, "and nobody has peed on that specific gas station wall for awhile, so that's also good!"

King says the robot has speakers, but only emitted sounds last Friday, its first night, and those were deafening. 

"Waaaaaaaargh.... like this weird synthesizer noise," he described.

Clerks didn't know how to turn it off. 

"I ended up tweeting at the company that makes the robot and they ended up remotely turning off the noise. So I think they're in charge," said King.   

If there were a serious crime, someone would presumably take the wheel again.     

"Someone steals my car, they've got the person on film, they've got the license plate and that way it's safe, " said Traci Lim, finishing her photos of the robot. "Welcome to the future, it's here, it's definitely here!"

Brian King's live-stream can be accessed here.
 

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