Doubling Down on Failure: NYC to Deploy Flawed AI System to Detect Guns in Subways

New York City will soon start testing out technology that uses AI to detect guns at subway turnstiles, Mayor Eric Adams said on Thursday. Adams’ announcement comes one week after an altercation at a subway station in Brooklyn in which a man was shot with his own gun after pulling it on another passenger.

Adams said the city is partnering with Evolv, a Massachusetts-based weapons detection company whose detectors are used in schools and venues across the country. Evolv, however, has faced scrutiny over the accuracy of its machines, as well as two government probes and a class action lawsuit by shareholders.

The pilot will start in 90 days, in accordance with the POST Act, which requires the New York City Police Department to disclose the surveillance technologies it uses and publish impact and use statements before new technologies are put into place. Adams said the city will also use the 90-day waiting period to vet other vendors. “This city has a technology mayor,” Adams said. “Bring us your technologies. Let us test it.” …

Evolv’s scanners look like metal detectors but are equipped with AI. The company claims the scanners use “safe, ultra-low frequency, electromagnetic fields and advanced sensors to detect concealed weapons.” Evolv CEO Peter George has claimed the scanners can detect virtually any type of weapon. “We’ve written the signatures for all the threats that are out there: all the guns that exist, all the bombs, all the large tactical knives,” George said in 2021. 

But reports suggest the technology doesn’t actually work all that well. Evolv’s scanners have reportedly flagged umbrellas as guns but failed to detect aluminum and steel tubes that were cut to look like gun barrels. Last year, The Intercept reported that some school districts were frustrated by Evolv’s machines failing to detect knives in students’ backpacks or mistakenly identifying lunchboxes as bombs.

In 2022, the surveillance industry research publication IPVM reported that Evolv had paid for testing by the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security, which the company later described as “fully independent.” Evolv also edited the purportedly independent report, removing information about the low rates of detection for certain weapons, according to the IPVM report.

— Gaby Del Valle in NYC Will Test AI Gun Detectors on the Subway

2 Responses

  1. Because of stabbings and platform shovings they toss a few million tax dollars to somebody’s buddy to install scanners that don’t work to detect guns.

    Makes perfect sense if your goal is move money away from the residents and into the pockets of a friend, relative or donor.

  2. Next up… Liberal/Progressive democrat politicians will be requiring a tracking device on all firearms. So the government can use AI to track were all firearms are at all times. Thus making society that much safer.

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