The intersection of Boulevard Triomphal and Huileries Avenue in Kinshasa, Congo, has two new additions – robot traffic policemen. These large robocops have replaced human police officers and traffic lights, and, believe it or not, they’re actually doing a great job.
At first glance, the robocops don’t look like much. They appear to be rudimentary tin boxes with attached tin hands. I’d say they have a scarecrow-like effect. But commuters have responded surprisingly well to the latest technology.
Demouto Motumbo, a resident of Kinshasa, said: “As a motorcyclist I’m very happy with the robot’s work. Because when traffic police control the cars here there’s still a lot of traffic. But since the robot arrived, we see truly that the commuters are respectful.”
Photo: YouTube caption
The eight-foot tall robots are made of aluminum and stainless steel for protection against harsh weather, and powered by solar panels. They wear sunglasses just like real cops, even though technically, they don’t have any eyes. Multiple cameras installed inside their tough bodies help them record the flow of traffic. This information is transmitted to a center where traffic rule violations are analyzed.
I suppose the robots work because they have a psychological effect on the commuters. People may not tend to take a traffic light seriously, but a humongous human-like robot is bound to catch their attention.
Photo: Congo Flash
Engineer Isaie Therese, the brains behind the project, said: “If a driver says that he is not going to respect the robot because it’s just a machine, the robot is going to take that and there will be a ticket for him. We are a poor country and our government is looking for money. And I will tell you that with the roads the government has built, it needs to recover its money.”
Therese heads a team of Congolese engineers at the Kinshasa Higher Institute of Applied Technique, who worked on the robocop project. “Our robot is a humanoid, we have taken the form of a human, it’s a design quality that copies the style of a real policeman, because our policeman really like sunglasses, so the sun does not damage their eyes, that’s why we have hidden the robot’s eyes with sunglasses, like a real policeman,” she said.
Photo: YouTube caption
Not everyone is too happy about the new law enforcers in town. According to Buanergesse Lukengu, another commuter, “The policemen should come back to their posts and do what they need to do, arrest traffic offenders. The robot was not made to arrest offenders, act on accidents and other violations because if someone knocks someone off the road, the robot is not going to follow. That work requires you to move.”
But Therese pointed out that these Africa-made robots can do a lot to help reduce the number of accidents in the region and maintain order on the roads. She hopes that the government will support her initiative and have the traffic robots fitted on more roads in the city.