This self-driving patrol robot will be used to spot dangers and alert police on Seoul streets – Euronews | Episode Movies

A drunk man has fallen asleep on the sidewalk of a narrow alley in Seoul, South Korea. A robot on wheels slowly approaches him and tries to wake him up.

“Sir, it’s dangerous if you sleep here. Let me help you get home safely,” says the robot. Shortly thereafter, a police car with blue lights comes and two officers drive the man away.

The patrol robot called “Goalie” is South Korea’s first urban patrol robot. It is designed to keep people safe on the streets day and night by remotely communicating with a control center and warning people of danger.

It essentially works like a “mobile security camera” that can inspect the blind spots of fixed CCTV cameras, its developer HL Mando told Euronews Next.

Weighing around 300 kg, the bot drives autonomously and avoids pedestrians and obstacles using satellite navigation and remote sensing technologies such as lidar (light detection and ranging). It can also patrol at night using thermal imaging cameras.

“The footage and audio that the robot is monitoring is transmitted to the control center via wireless communication (5G),” said Young-ha Cho, senior researcher at HL Mando.

“If the robot sees a dangerous situation or hears a sound like ‘help me’, the control center commands the robot to move there and can check whether the situation is really dangerous or not.”

The case of the drunk man sleeping on a sidewalk was first reported by a South Korean newspaper, while footage shared by its developer shows the robot in action in a public park and a siren sounds as a toddler begins to scale a fence .

The robot is also said to help women feel safer at night walking alone. In fact, Goalie is introduced in a residential area of ​​Seoul that has the highest percentage of single women in the country.

Security and Privacy Concerns

Currently, the high-tech patrol robot is only allowed to operate alongside a human — and it faces some regulatory challenges over security and privacy concerns.

According to HL Mando, the footage filmed by the robot is not stored, only streamed live, and its communications with the control center are encrypted to comply with South Korea’s Personal Data Protection Law.

“Privacy issues are very important and sensitive in South Korea,” Cho said.

“When the robot is patrolling, we have an obligation to notify people in the vicinity of the robot that we are monitoring them. The patrol time slots should also be published prior to deployment.”

Goalie is technically not allowed to operate under the current laws of South Korea.

National regulations actually ban autonomous robots from operating on streets, sidewalks and parks – and they can’t store video or audio, meaning there are many obstacles for them to collect data.

However, thanks to a so-called regulatory sandbox, Goalie received conditional permission for testing.

“It’s difficult to decide whether to relax an existing regulation, but it’s relatively easier to agree to testing new technologies under limited circumstances,” said Minho Lee, senior research fellow at the Korea Institute of Public Administration.

“The regulatory sandboxes first came from the UK, where they are only used in the fintech industry, but in South Korea we use this system across industries,” he explained.

Accompanied by staff

Lee warned that too many restrictions can make it difficult to test a technology’s potential — and defeat the purpose of the regulatory sandbox system.

For example, Goalie currently has to be accompanied by staff at all times, although it’s designed to be self-driven, eventually replacing human patrol officers.

Lee added that this kind of red tape could hurt startups that can’t afford the time and money to work through it.

“It took almost half a year to get the government’s approval and it wasn’t easy to meet all their requirements,” said HL Mando’s Cho of Goalie’s use.

South Korean authorities are now working with robot developers, academics and legal experts on new regulations that — if approved and complied with — could eliminate the need for a sandbox system altogether, Cho said.

“I hope that this new regulation will be made as soon as possible,” he said.

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