Drivers in gridlocked Kinshasa want them everywhere: two giant robots in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a metropolis of 10 million people with a considerable traffic problem.
When they fine someone, the money goes in their pocket, nothing goes to the state. Robots reduce the risk of being racketeered.
The biggest has been placed at a crossroads close to the parliament to regulate traffic, and a smaller one is standing in a populated area to help pedestrians cross a road where several pupils have been run over.
At the end of March, another robot was put at Place de la Poste in Lubumbashi, the second-largest city in the country.
Just like its older brothers in Kinshasa, the Lubumbashi robot is already very popular amongst the city’s drivers.
The traffic robot phenomenon started with a small wooden prototype.
“It was created with the initial goal of putting an end to road accidents,” says one of the local engineers behind the robot.
The prototype was shown at an innovation fair in Kinshasa in March 2013.
Engineer and businesswoman Thérèse Kirongozi decided to finance and to improve the original concept for use on the streets.
Kirongozi’s cooperative, Women’s Technology (Wotech), made the robots in a small workshop.
They cost $10,000 to produce. Powered by solar energy, they shine a green or red light, record road activity, play road safety awareness music and talk in French and Lingala.
Wally has been a taxi driver for 20 years. “I’ve spent a lot of money because of roulages,” he says, referring to the poorly paid policemen in charge of traffic and respect for driving regulations.
“When they fine someone, the money goes in their pocket, nothing goes to the state,” he says. “Robots reduce the risk of being racketeered.”
Women’s Technology says that clients in the Republic of Congo and Angola, who have shown an interest, will also buy the robots.
Kirongozi is planning to show the innovation in Switzerland and Canada, and Wotech is also in discussion with the Congolese government about using the robot’s cameras to track road infractions.
The government could use the machines to collect a considerable amount of money from fines. ●
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