You look in the rear-view mirror at the flashing red light and curse under your breath. You pull over. But instead of the police officer getting out of his cruiser and asking you for your licence and registration, it’s a robot — a high-tech highway cop called the GoBetween.
The helmet-wearing robocop is attached to a long rolling aluminium arm that is operated by the human officer and extends from the police car to the motorist’s window. A spike chain unfolds between the front and rear tires to prevent a police chase. The robot’s “head” is a two-way video camera that allows the police officer and the motorist to see and talk to each other. A barcode scanner records the driver’s licence and prints the ticket.
Reuben Brewer, a senior robotics researcher at the California based non-profit SRI International came up with the idea to help reduce violent, sometimes deadly confrontations in the US. In 2017, there were over 5,000 cops assaulted during traffic stops.
Australia has an average of five deaths per year in all police-related incidents while in the US, so far this year 10 police officers have been killed in the line of duty, most involve shootings.
Terry Goldsworthy, a criminologist at Bond University in Queensland, explained when accounting for population differences, it comes down to roughly six times more deaths by police shootings each year in the US than here.
GoBetween may not be the ultimate answer to police traffic confrontations here, but its newest prototype will be equipped with a breathalyzer test.