US Government is Deploying Robot Dogs to Patrol US-Mexico Border

Robot dogs are being deployed to patrol the US’s southern border with Mexico, attracting criticism that such a move will exacerbate “anti-immigrant dystopia” and the invasive and dehumanising conditions already prevalent in the region.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Tueday said it was deploying robot dogs to patrol the country’s southern border with Mexico to assist its Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel.

The goal of the programme, it said, was to leverage technology to increase the presence of CBP at the borders and to reduce “human exposure to life-threatening hazards”.

“The southern border can be an inhospitable place for man and beast, and that is exactly why a machine may excel there,” Brenda Long, programme manager of the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) at DHS, said in a statement.

“This S&T-led initiative focuses on Automated Ground Surveillance Vehicles, or what we call ‘AGSVs.’ Essentially, the AGSV program is all about… robot dogs,” Ms Long added.

The robot dogs are currently being tested for their abilities to complete assignments such as sentry duty as well as carrying payloads across rough terrain.

Some of these payloads include video and other sensor packages, which after being mounted onto the robot dog, can transmit real-time video and other data back to the human operating or monitoring them.

Researchers also subjected the robot dogs to scenarios that would require them to move through harsh environments, operate in tight spaces and be unfazed by high heat as well as low oxygen conditions – situations dangerous for CBP agents and officers.

The robot dogs are also programmed to go on simulated sentry duty in daylight as well as at night, with further tests also conducted on battery life and impact of terrain on their endurance.

Incidentally, US policy not only does not “prohibit the development or employment” of killer robots (officially known as “lethal autonomous weapon systems,” or Laws) but also opposes any international preemptive ban. 

Meanwhile, as the Congressional Research Service notes, Israel has already exported what many consider a lethal autonomous weapon system to Chile, China, India, South Korea and Turkey. We’re fast running out of time for robust international dialogue on this issue.

Domestically, the short history of the use of the robot dogs in our cities is also troubling. The Honolulu police department used about $150,000 of pandemic funding to buy their robot dog, which they then used to scan the eyes and take the temperatures of unhoused people to check for symptoms of Covid. 

The practice raised the alarms of advocates who said the practice was fundamentally dehumanizing. Needless to say, no housed person was treated that way.