How A Food Delivery Robot Ended Up In The Middle Of A Crime Scene

A Serve Robotics food delivery robot unknowingly drove through an active crime scene at Hollywood High School in California, the company has reported that they are looking into the mishap.

By Joseph Farago | Published

As the 21st century continues, robots and automated devices have become more advanced. Some machines can navigate full houses while vacuuming, while AI-powered websites can output information based on complex algorithms. But as impressive as some of this technology may be, there are still times when robots don’t have common sense like humans do to help them evade specific problems.

Last week, a delivery robot was caught entering a crime scene that police had blocked off. Though the area was covered with caution tape, the Serve Robotics AI crossed the boundary and entered the restricted region. This all occurred outside Hollywood High School, where an active shooter was reported to be on the premises.

On September 16th, the police were called to investigate a shooter at the LA high school campus. The area was immediately blocked off, while faculty and students were escorted out of the building. Though the event was startling and scary, the shooting was eventually debunked, and the police are now referring to the active shooter tip as a hoax.

The delivery robot who entered the crime scene was caught on video by people standing around the caution-taped perimeter of the high school. In the video posted to Twitter, you can see someone lifting the tape upward for the robot to pass through. The autonomous delivery cart then rolls across the street to get to the other side, continuing its journey to its drop-off destination.

food delivery robot crime scene
Serve Robotics Food Delivery Robot

Though the video is humorous, it highlights issues with AI running certain services that only humans could navigate. Serve Robotics, the company behind the delivery robot made a statement about their machinery crossing police territory. A spokesperson for the company elaborated on the mishap, stating that these robots are programmed “to reroute” instead of crossing barriers, but that they’re investigating the technology to ensure it doesn’t happen in the future.  

Though an R2D2-looking delivery robot doesn’t seem too aggressive or threatening to people’s public safety, some folks pointed out that similar automated devices have been used to transport bombs. In 2016, Dallas police used a robot to catch an active shooter off guard. The police strapped the robot with a bomb, directed it to the shooter, detonated it, and killed him.

Other than being a threat, automated robots have had plenty of complaints about their escalating abundance in America. In Santa Monica, a company called Coco has food delivery robots that can be operated like video game characters. People working the machines maneuver them with controls, directing them around city sidewalks and streets to get the orders to the correct location.

Though Coco has accelerated the possibilities for food delivery robots, many residents have had issues with the machines taking up sidewalk space. In March 2021, a police report was filed in Santa Monica due to a man frustratingly picking up a Coco robot and smashing it into the ground. His violent sentiment mirrors many other residential complaints stating that the Coco machines are nuisances on public streets and sidewalks, often obstructing pedestrians from getting to their destinations.