In a city where 2,276 traffic deaths have occurred in the last six years, robots have been brought in to make a stand. They look like something out of a bad science-fiction movie. Eight-foot-tall and shining from their aluminum exterior, these robots in the Congo swivel their heads and torsos towards pedestrians and traffic, booming out instructions while recording and transmitting to local authorities.
The robots have traffic lights on their hands and cameras powered by solar panels. They can request a dispatch of live police officers at the scene to talk to, or arrest offenders.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has endured generations of mind-boggling corruption on every level of government, continuous war and endless violence, crime and poverty. The capital city Kinshasa, with nearly nine million people according to online magazine GOOD, is at the center of it all.
Enter the Kinshasa Higher Institute of Applied Technique. Two female engineers had the idea for the robots, and received funding in 2013. Two of the automatons have been placed in Kinshasa, and two more are set to be installed in Katanga, a nearby mining center with nightmarish traffic problems. At a cost of $27,500 apiece, many believe are seeing the investment pay off, with fewer violators and fatalities.
There are many who disagree with the entire idea of investment in robotic law enforcement in a nation with a crumbling infrastructure and full of grinding poverty. However, the approval of the three additional robots indicates that this isn’t just a gimmick; the robots are here to stay, and more are likely to come.