(CNN) – Two students at North Carolina’s Duke University are trying their hand at making the streets safer. They’ve developed a robotic cop.
After countless news stories about violent encounters between police and drivers, two Duke students wanted to make these interactions safer.
Duke Senior Vaibhav Tadepalli said, “There’s got to be a better way to do this.”
They built a robot named Sentinel. When Sentinel is complete, the driver will be able to interact with the officer through this video screen, which will be attached to a lift that rises as high as 7 feet in the air.
Graduate Student Chris Reyes says, “I’ll pull him over. And instead of me getting out of the car, the robot deploys from the car and drives itself over to his window. And then he communicates through the robot to me.”
Tadepalli says, “Yeah and so then it lifts up a screen. And on that screen is essentially a two-way Skype call. So I’m looking at the screen. I see Chris in the car behind me. He asks for my license and registration, I hold it up to the screen, it scans that.”
The information goes directly into the officer’s laptop. The robot also records what it sees.
Reyes says, “So it can record what’s going on. And it can actually start populating data from what type of make and model the car is. It can read the license plate.”
The idea is to diffuse potentially volatile situations. Tadepalli says, “We really hope that we won’t read headlines that say that someone’s been fatally shot at a traffic stop through no fault of their own, whether it’s an officer, whether it’s a motorist. That’s really our goal.”
The young inventors repeatedly consult with police. They even went on a ride along with a female officer.
Tadepalli says, “I’m still very nervous. And she turned to me and said, ‘Imagine how we must feel.’ That really spoke to me.'”
And they’re hoping when it’s complete, Sentinel will speak for departments across the country, becoming a high-tech path to safer policing.
The two students have invested about $1,500 into Sentinel so far. They say they hope it will be cheaper than other law enforcement robots, which could cost up to $20,000Copyright 2017 CNN