Traffic Robots in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Tom Spendlove posted on February 27, 2014 |
Isaie Therese built and installed two traffic control robots in Kinshasa, the capital of Congo.

Isaie Therese wanted to bring order to the streets of the Democratic Republic of Congo. She invented a robot to direct traffic in Kinshasa, the capital city.

Isaie studied at the Institute of Applied Techniques in Kinshasa and created the traffic robots as a way to continuously watch traffic. The humanoid form of the robot is meant for drivers and pedestrians to think of the robots as police officers.

Standing around 8 feet tall (not including the large concrete platform erected to hold the robots) and run by solar power the robots look like happy 1960s automatons. LED screens on the robotic arms and chest tell pedestrians when to stop and go. Cameras record the vehicles passing by so that anyone breaking the law can be sent a ticket after the fact.

Kinshasa launched the robots in late 2013, and when the media blitz hit in late January the traffic situation was improved. The novelty of the humanoid traffic signals has not yet worn off and their larger than life presence on the street is still helping to control the traffic congestion.

This project is a great intersection between highly innovative engineering ideas and really odd use for currently existing technology. There's not much information on the specifications for the robot, the camera systems, the charging mechanisms or the LED screens, but I'm assuming that mostly off-the-shelf components were used in the robot's construction.

Positive news about the country is rare over the past few years so this engineering story is a great find. The most interesting part of this project for me will be the long term effects on traffic congestion. Will the citizens of Congo still follow and obey these robots in a year? Will more than two of the robots exist in more intersections in Kinshasa or other cities? I'm hoping that in a year's time we can have a follow up on the twin traffic bots.

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