Robots could take over from city traffic police

TN News

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With traffic jams worsening in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and policemen required at virtually every intersection during rush hour, an initiative by some students to use robots to regulate traffic looks appealing.

The project, by six students from the HCMC University of Technical Education’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, is entered for Eureka 2010, a national contest for budding scientists.

Pham Tan Dat, the group leader, said the robots, 1.75 meters tall and with a human-like appearance, can do the job of directing traffic day and night and in all weather conditions.

Nguyen Trung Hieu, a member of the group, said the robots would stand at intersections, while cameras connected to computers would be installed on all roads to record images of people and vehicles waiting to go. The computers would count their numbers using the images and signal to the robots to direct the traffic, he said.

The software would also help anticipate traffic jams, enabling police officers to control the situation.

Dat said the robots would be remotely controlled, with operators directing the robots’ action through the camera system or from control stations right at the site.

Of course, they can also operate independently.

Dr. Nguyen Truong Thinh of the university’s Department of Mechanical Engineering said, “I greatly appreciate the students’ initiative. With their low cost, I think the robots will be an effective and economical measure to deal with the traffic jams in big urban areas.”

With their ability to operate completely automatically and be operated by remote control, they also offer greater flexibility in traffic control, he said.

But with the students’ limited financial and technological capacities, it is difficult to use the robots in real situations, Dat admitted.

Group member Nguyen Duy Toan said it took them around a year to fabricate the robot after having to learn various subjects like IT, mechanical engineering, electronics and sociology.

Hieu said since robotics is still in its infancy in Vietnam, they had difficulty accessing materials and getting advice from experts.

Their normal computers were too slow in dealing with images collected from the cameras. They could not afford cameras either and had to make do with webcams instead, resulting in poor image quality.

“We hope experts and official agencies will help us learn and apply the initiative practically,” Dat said.

But with the robots costing just around VND10 million (US$555.6) to make â€" excluding the cameras and computer â€" the students hope it will prove to be an effective measure to deal with HCMC’s severe traffic problem.

Tran Quang Phuong, director of the city’s Department of Transport, said the gridlocks cause the city annual losses of around VND14 trillion ($760 million).

Dat said his group is continuing to work on the robots, hoping to make an upgraded version that would be even more flexible and be able to note the numbers of violators’ vehicles.

Reported by Bao Anh

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