The Democratic Republic of Congo is using giant robots to direct and control traffic and reduce dangerous driving on the streets of its capital, Kinshasa. Two traffic-control robots were first introduced in 2013, and three new upgraded versions have now been added to intersections on Kinshasa’s road network. Built to withstand the year-round tropical climate, the solar-powered aluminum robots are huge, towering over the cars and motorcycles that jostle for road space in the sprawling city of nine million residents. Named Tamuke, Mwaluke and Kisanga, each of the humanoid machines cost US$27,500, and are equipped with large robotic hands that are fitted with red and green lights that let the cars know when to stop and when to go. The robots are also equipped with rotating chests and surveillance cameras that send real-time images to the police operations center, and record traffic violations.
The robots are the creations of a Congolese association of all-female engineers, Women’s Technology, which developed the robots in conjunction with Kinshasa’s Higher Institute of Applied Technique. Therese Izay, the group’s president, said that the robots would stop habitual offenders from thinking that they could escape justice, “In our city, someone can commit an offence and run away, and say that no one saw him. But now, day or night, we’ll be able to see him in real time and he will pay his fine like in all the serious countries of the world. 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. The robot corresponds to international standards. If a driver says he’s not going to respect the robot because it is just a machine, the robot is going to take that and there will be a ticket for him. Compared to this older model, the new ones’ electronic components work much better, and they react much more quickly than the older ones.” Izay has submitted a proposal to city officials to install 30 more of the robots throughout the city if the new deployment proves a success.
For a video showing the robots in action click here