In a highly congested city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), robots have been recruited to act as traffic police. Replacing conventional traffic lights, these eight-foot-tall aluminium giants, each equipped with video cameras, warning lights on the torso, and a rotating chest, have been placed at five traffic signals in Kinshasa, the capital of DRC.
The sub-Saharan Africa region, despite having only two percent of the world’s automotive vehicles, has the leading number of deaths on the road – Kinshasa itself has reported over 2,276 since 2007. The situation is worsening because of rising car ownership and widespread corruption among the police.
The robots were designed and manufactured by Therese Izay’s company Women’s Technologies. They stand 2.5 meters tall and weigh 250 kilograms. Intial prototypes, installed in 2013, cost $10,000, while the three new robots installed in 2015 – named Tamuke, Mwaluke and Kisanga – cost an astonishing $27,500 to make.
Some believe that the robots are an “expensive distraction” from the real issues. The Kinshasa Governor Andra Kimbuta believes that they are no match for real policeman, who can chase motorists who break lights and raise civic awareness. However, traffic incidents have indeed dropped.
A taxi driver, Poro Zidane, told AFP, “There are certain drivers who don’t respect the traffic police. But with the robot it will be different. We should respect the robot.”