Engineering Firm Begins Testing Robot Police Officer

  • Nick Jaynes has worked for more than a decade in automotive media industry. In that time, he's done it all—from public relations for Chevrolet to new-car reviews for Mashable. Nick now lives in Portland, Oregon and spends his weekends traversing off-road trails in his 100 Series Toyota Land Cruiser.

can be reached at nickjaynes@gmail.com
  • Nick Jaynes has worked for more than a decade in automotive media industry. In that time, he's done it all—from public relations for Chevrolet to new-car reviews for Mashable. Nick now lives in Portland, Oregon and spends his weekends traversing off-road trails in his 100 Series Toyota Land Cruiser.

can be reached at nickjaynes@gmail.com
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This week, engineering firm SRI International released a video of one of its new prototype robotic projects: a so-called ‘GoBetween’ police robot that can issue traffic citations while the officer remains safely in their vehicle.

After watching the video below, I have one question: Have we learned nothing from “RoboCop”?

As you can see, a giant track extends from the police vehicle up to the civilian vehicle it has pulled over. On it, rests a robotic avatar on which the officer can interact with the perpetrator or “perp.” A spike strip deploys in front of the civilian vehicle during the traffic stop, presumably to deter the perp from simply driving away from the robot surrogate.

Something tells me the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) would have something to say about preemptively deploying such a tire-rending weapon during a routine stop. I’m not a legal scholar, though, so I won’t go there.

According to the blurb included along with the video: “Every year 16,915,140 drivers are pulled-over in traffic, 195,078 motorists have physical force used on them, 4,488 officers are assaulted, 89 of those motorists die, and 11 of those officers die.”

It’s safe to assume that the GoBetween will keep both officers and civilians safe from one another, which is great. What does it say about our society, though, that both sides of the thin blue line feel they need protection? To be fair, though, I don’t believe any law-enforcement agency has asked for such a tool.

Don’t expect to see the GoBetween police robot on duty anytime soon. The creator, Reuben Brewer, a Senior Robotics Research Engineer in SRI International’s Advanced Technologies and Sciences Department (ATSD), started the project in his garage. Although it’s not a part of his work at SRI, something tells me it’s not ready for widespread deployment.


About the Author

  • Nick Jaynes has worked for more than a decade in automotive media industry. In that time, he's done it all—from public relations for Chevrolet to new-car reviews for Mashable. Nick now lives in Portland, Oregon and spends his weekends traversing off-road trails in his 100 Series Toyota Land Cruiser.

can be reached at nickjaynes@gmail.com
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