An army of mechanical monsters causing havoc on the planet has been a prevailing theme in sci-fi stories since the genre was first conceived. However, in Kinshasa, Congo, a group of engineers are trying to re-brand the metal villains by outfitting them with cameras and sunglasses and employing them to direct traffic.
Eight foot tall “robocops” that look like a combination of the Tin Man and the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz are catching the attention of drivers in the African country and have been effective in establishing order at busy traffic intersections. 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.”
The robots are weatherproof, composed of a strong aluminum and stainless steel armor, and are powered by solar panels. Just like real cops, they wear sunglasses and are fit with multiple cameras which transmit traffic information back to a control center that analyzes the data and processes tickets for traffic violations.
Engineer Isaie Therese thinks that the robots have a psychological effect and that commuters take the humongous human-like structures more seriously than an ordinary traffic light. She adds that if they don’t take them seriously there will be consequences. “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,” she calmly states.
Moreover, there is an economical reason for the robotic deployment as well, says Therese: “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.”
Buanergesse Lukengu, another commuter, is far less excited about the mechanical law enforcers than Therese is: “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.”