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Robot Traffic Cops Help Beat Congestion In Kinshasa

posted 27 Dec 2013, 06:10 by Mpelembe   [ updated 27 Dec 2013, 06:10 ]

Kinshasa has adopted an innovative way of managing traffic along its city streets, by installing robot cops to direct and monitor traffic along roads instead of using normal policemen to reduce congestion.

KINSHASA, DRC (REUTERS) -  Rush hour traffic is slowly easing up along the intersection of Boulevard Triomphal and Huileries Avenue, in Kinshasa, located along the axis of Patrick Lumumba Boulevard, thanks to the two new robot cops in town.

They may not have real eyes, but new traffic policemen still sport Kinshasa's usual signature cop sunglasses.

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Two human-like robots were recently installed here to help tackle the hectic traffic usually experienced in the area.

The prototypes are equipped with four cameras that allow them to record traffic flow; the information is then transmitted to a centre where traffic infractions can be analyzed.

The team behind the new robots are a group of Congolese engineers based at theKinshasa Higher Institute of Applied Technique, known by its French acronym, ISTA.

The group is headed by Isaie Therese, an engineer who also studied at the institute.

"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, because our policeman really like sunglasses, so the sun does not damage their eyes, that's why we have hidden the robot's eyes with sunglasses, like a real policeman," she said.

The robots are fabricated from aluminium and stainless steel to protect them against various elements. Solar panels power the robots 24 hours a day.

A number of residents have noticed the new developments in the the city and have mixed views on their presence.

"As a motorcyclist, I am very happy with the robot's work, because while the traffic police control the cars here, there is a lot of traffic, but since the robot arrived, we see truly that the commuters are respectful. When the robot gives the go-ahead, the people go. When he cuts them off, the people stop. But before, people driving refused to respect that, so now it is going better," said, Demouto Mutobmo, a Kinshasa resident.

"The policemen should come back to their posts and do what they need to do, arrest traffic offenders. The robot was not made to arrest offenders, act on accidents and other violations because if someone knocks someone off the road, the robot is not going to follow that work requires you to move." said another resident, Buanergesse Lukengu.

Authorities have been working to modernize certain busy intersections in Kinshasa, and install traffic signs along the roads.

According to Therese, these robots, originated in Africa, can do a lot for the region to help reduce the high number of accidents each year and bring order on the roads.

Therese hopes the government will support the imitative further and have them fitted on more roads in the city, she says this would be an investment that would help bring in revenue.

"The robot corresponds to international standards, if a driver says that he is not going to respect the robot, because it's just a machine, the robot is going to take that and there will be a ticket for him. We are a poor country, and our government is looking for money and I will tell you that with the roads the government has built, it needs to recover its money," she said.

So far, the robot traffic cops seem to be helping cut congestion on roads as authorities work on further plans to help build their way out of the problem in future.