Traffic Robots in Kinshasa

aIn the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kinshasa, two large robots, named Toodles and Penelope, are being used in place of police officers to direct traffic and pedestrians. These solar-powered robots are equipped with multiple cameras, enabling the potential for monitoring traffic and issuing tickets. Despite their widespread acceptance, Chief of police, Murilo Costa, reported that the robots have been acting “erratically.”

Leading robot psychologist, Júlia Goncalves, Ph.D., was immediately flown in from Paris, France, to investigate the issue. After conducting several psychotherapeutic sessions with Toodles and Penelepe, Dr. Goncalves concluded that the robots were not thoroughly screened for mental health disorders prior to joining the department.

Dr. Goncalves told reporters, “It is apparent that both Toodles and Penelope have mental health issues. Toodles suffers from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). He has the fundamental capabilities to direct traffic; however, he apparently will not stop letting cars pass in one direction until he counts ’23 red cars.’ Toodles also requires pedestrians to line up in a row, alternating between male and female, prior to crossing an intersection.”

Dr. Goncalves then went on to describe Penelope; “Penelope is a different story. She has a long history of depressive symptoms and undoubtedly meets criteria for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). Penelope will begin directing traffic, but due to her low motivation and sad demeanor, she ‘gives up’ and puts her head down. There have been a few occasions when it’s gotten so bad that she attempted to pull her electric cord from the socket.”

Dr. Goncalves concluded by saying that “these robots are in no way fit for active duty. It was also brought to my attention that both of the robots are colorblind, which completely defeats the purpose of distinguishing a red light from a green light.”


*Image attribution
“Flickr Kinshasa Traffic Robot 3” by samgrant44. This image has not been altered.

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