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Prime Directives

Robocop is real, and he’s directing traffic in Kinshasa

Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is home to 10 million people—and now a couple of traffic robots, too.

The bots, which are eight feet tall and have quite the retro sci-fi look about them, are meant to decrease accidents in high-traffic intersections. They can tell pedestrians when to cross the road and raise or bend their arms to direct vehicles. They’re solar powered, and also feature surveillance cameras to monitor traffic patterns.

It’s unclear just how smart these guys are: According to the country’s road safety commission, the “intelligence” of the two bots will make traffic management easy. But by all appearances, they’re just dressed-up traffic signals, so you probably don’t have to worry about them revolting anytime soon. Then again, futurist and Google engineering director Ray Kurzweil says that robots will gain some kind of consciousness in about a decade. What are the odds that they’ll be content with just directing traffic?

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