NYC to trial weapon detectors from controversial AI company

29 Mar 2024

Image: © flowertiare/

NYC is reportedly partnering with Evolv to use its weapon detection systems, but the company’s AI-powered machines have been criticised for their accuracy in the past.

New York City (NYC) plans to deploy new technology to detect weapons in subway systems and has partnered with a controversial company to do so.

The New York Police Department (NYPD) shared a document about the use of an electromagnetic weapons detection system, which uses low-frequency pulses that pass through objects to detect potential weapons.

These sensors – which appear to look similar to metal detectors – are equipped with cameras and can take images and a short video if the machine detects a potential weapon on a person walking past it. The NYPD said these systems are already used by “sports stadiums and arenas, entertainment and hospitality venues, and healthcare facilities”.

“The electromagnetic weapons detection system being considered by the NYPD does not utilise biometric measuring technologies,” the NYPD said. “It does not use facial recognition technologies and cannot conduct a facial recognition analysis.”

New York City mayor Eric Adams announced earlier this week that the city had launched a search for the best system to detect weapons on the subway, in response to a number of violent attacks in the city’s transport system.

A video shared by CBS News suggests the city is partnering with weapons detection company Evolv for the new systems. The Verge also claims that NYC is partnering with the Massachusetts-based company.

Evolv claims its machines have been used to screen more than 1bn people worldwide and that it has more than 700 customers that utilise its weapons detection tech. But the accuracy of this company’s systems have been criticised in the past.

A report by The Intercept last year claims a school in New York used Evolv’s weapon detection systems, but that they failed to detect a knife concealed by a 17-year-old student who later stabbed another student at the school. The report claims there were other incidents where Evolv’s systems failed to detect weapons being brought into schools.

Meanwhile, the company is being probed by the US Federal Trade Commission, which is investigating whether Evolv’s AI systems operate as it claims according to a Bloomberg report. Evolv also recently revealed that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the company.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic