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The Robocops of Kinshasa

Central Africa might not be your first guess when it comes to thinking of robocops but for the last 5 years or so in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo has been using them in increasing numbers in the hope they will improve traffic flow and cut the terrible death-rate on the roads.

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.

In reality, they aren’t quite like Robots in the modern sense but it is still several steps better than the all too predictable hi-tech Russian robot that was unveiled to show how far ahead Russia is in robotics only for it to be quickly discovered it was a man dressed in a robot suit.

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

kinsasha-robot-policemen

The traffic robot has camera eyes to video infractions and its body and arms rotate and raise to control traffic.

The new robots are powered by solar panels and cost $27,500each, while the older prototypes cost $10,000 each. Women’s Technologies (Wotech), a Congolese co-operative that employs both female and male engineers, created the robots with entrepreneur Thérèse Izay Kirongozi behind 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 robots 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.

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For other Africa related posts have a look at how Cricket is improving lives in Rwanda  or perhaps an environmental article My first cover story on the Green Wall of Africa .  For a little bit of forgotten history then you might like to read about the man that was so rich, he made Gold worthless but giving so much away.  Musa I of Mali – The richest man you may never have heard of

 

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About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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