Every year, police officers make more than 50,000 traffic stops with motorists. And they can often times be sources extreme stress. Not to mention, potentially dangerous for the officer. With that in mind, Reuben Brewer, a mechanical engineer at the nonprofit research organization SRI International in Menlo Park, California, has created a robot to help. His hope is that law enforcement officers will be able to use it and take some of the danger out of traffic stops.
“The GoBetween robot is attached to a rod that extends forward from an officer’s car to a motorist’s window, enabling the officer and the motorist to communicate with one another without leaving their vehicles. The bot can even issue a ticket.”1
He said, “I got tired of hearing news reports of motorists and cops getting shot or run over in traffic stops, usually in what seemed like preventable situations. I’d be absolutely thrilled for this robot to save even a single life … No one should die in a traffic stop.”1
Check out the video below from SRI International to see how it works:
Sadly, that is too often the case.
“Nationwide statistics on traffic stop outcomes are hard to find, but experts say they lead to many injuries and deaths each year — particularly among black motorists, who are more likely than their white counterparts to experience violence from police. Police officers, meanwhile, run the risk of being assaulted by motorists or struck by passing cars.”1
The “GoBetween” has every tool an officer needs to conduct a traffic stop: a tablet screen, webcam, signature pad, and a small printer to issue the citations.
Amy Shoemaker, a data scientist involved with the Stanford Open Policing Project, believes there is a role this bot can play, if only “to help prevent tragedies like Philando Castile’s death.”1 However, she also said, “given the complexities of race and policing it doesn’t seem like a panacea.”1 Ultimately, more officer training needs to be done to eliminate prejudice and bias in not just surveillance but the stops themselves.
And Brewer agrees. He’s currently working on a second prototype that can access a car’s passenger side window. Moving forward Brewer is hoping to secure funding to further develop the robot and do field tests with police.