400-pound, egg-shaped autonomous robots to patrol parking lots

No, that’s not a villainous Dalek from “Doctor Who” whirling around your local Lowe’s parking lot.

Lowe’s, an American store chain is testing autonomous, 400-pound security robots from robotics company Knight scope to patrol parking lots at some of its stores to enhance safety, the company told Insider Monday.

“Safety is more than a priority at Lowe’s — it’s a core value for our company. To continue to drive safety in our stores, select locations are receiving a new security robot as part of a pilot project,” Scott Draher, vice president of asset protection and safety at Lowe’s, told Insider over email. “This pilot is part of Lowe’s continuing efforts to utilize new and innovative technologies to keep our associates and customers safe.”

Lowe’s said it began testing the Knight scope K5 robots in February in Philadelphia.  It’s also running pilots in Washington State, North Carolina, Washington D.C., and California.

Several TikTok users have posted videos of the robots patrolling the Lowe’s parking lots, likening them to the popular Dalek villains from “Dr. Who.”

“Doctor Who!” TikTok user @rt531949 wrote in a comment on a video they posted. “The Future is Here!”

Stacy Stephens, executive vice president and chief client officer at Knight scope, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the robots are “looking for known threats, people to whom you’ve issued criminal trespass warnings, terminated employees, or domestic abusers.” The robots are not meant to replace security guards, but to help companies with situational awareness and criminal prosecution, per Stephens.

Lowe’s decision to test these autonomous robots comes as retailers have been sounding the alarms about rising levels of theft. Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in December 2022 that stores would close and prices would rise if theft levels did not drop. The theft issue has ballooned into a $94.5 billion problem for the retail industry, according to a 2022 study conducted by the National Retail Federation.

Still, other retailers are walking back their messaging around theft. Walgreens CFO James Kehoe said in January the company “cried too much” about theft the year prior, saying it hadn’t seen as much shrinkage in recent months.

For its part, Lowe’s already stows away many of its power tools behind lock-and-key. And in December 2022, the company announced “Project Unlock,” an initiative where it will use RFID technology and point-of-sale activation so that power tools that are stolen won’t work.

Knight scope declined to comment on Lowe’s robot project when reached by Insider, saying “as a matter of corporate policy, we do not speak on behalf of our clients and/or end users.”

The company, founded in 2013, has clients across a variety of sectors, from law enforcement to commercial real estate to schools. Knight scope began public trading on Nasdaq early last year. 

The company made headlines in 2016 after one of its robots hit a 16-month-old baby in California. The company called the incident a “freakish accident.”


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