Giant robocops are being deployed to solve the Congo’s traffic problem

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A traffic robot cop on Triomphal boulevard of Kinshasa at the crossing of Asosa, Huileries and Patrice Lubumba streets.
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For over two decades, cities around the world have used red light and speed cameras to help enforce traffic laws.

Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is betting that giant robots could be more effective (and promote safety in sub-Saharan Africa, where over 2,200 deaths occur from car accidents every year).

The first two bots – which stand over eight feet tall and weigh 550 pounds – were installed on the sides of two intersections in 2013. In 2015, three more bots, named Tamuke, Mwaluke and Kisanga, were planted at three other main traffic junctions, according to The Guardian.

They essentially work like normal security cameras. As cars go by, the bots record them, and Kinshasa’s police can monitor the real-time footage. Those who speed or run a red light get tickets (The bots are not equipped with artificial intelligence, so they can’t issue tickets themselves). Their chests also rotate and serve as four traffic lights at once.

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Therese Inza (C), president of the Congolese branch of ‘ Women technologies’, the society which developed three new human-like robots that were recently installed in Kinshasa.
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The new robots are powered by solar panels and cost $27,500 each, while the older prototypes cost $10,000 each. Women’s Technologies (Wotech), a Congolese co-op that employs both female and male engineers, created the bots. An entrepreneur named Thérèse Izay Kirongozi spearheaded the design.

The response by Kinshasa residents has been mostly positive, according to the local news outlet CCTV Africa. In a recent op-ed in The New York Times, science fiction author Nnedi Okorafor wrote that the bots keep traffic down and allow pedestrians and drivers to feel safe.

“These robot traffic cops work around the clock and are beloved by locals – and they don’t accept bribes,” she writes.

Not everyone is convinced. As Citylab notes, the bots could be a distraction from the city’s more pertinent issues with urban planning, including unpaved roads and lack of public transportation.