By the end of this year, and not in some far off dystopian Blade Runner like future, Dubai’s police force will have a new recruit bringing law and order to its street; a self-driving car that will “fulfil low-level order enforcement tasks.”

But the new vehicles aren’t exactly the ED-209 walking military style police officers from RoboCop. Instead the miniature vehicles are tiny and are more akin to giant toy cars than anything else. Measuring somewhere around the average adult’s waist height, the robot police cars come just a few weeks after Dubai recruited its first robotic officer.

Its small size belies the advanced technology concealed within.

The new the robot surveillance car is the brainchild of Singaporean start-up company OTSAW Digital. The “autonomous outdoor security robot” or O-R3 will be patrolling the desert city in numbers by the end of 2017.

The future of law enforcement.

The move is all part of Dubai’s grand plan to have robots make up 25% of its police force by 2030. Just for reference, the new Blade Runner movie is set in the year 2049. In a press statement unveiling the addition of the O-R3 to its police force, the commander of the Dubai Police Force, Major General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, said:

“We seek to augment operations with the help of technology such as robots. Essentially, we aim for streets to be safe and peaceful even without heavy police patrol.”

But Al Marri was also at pains to point out that the new robotic police force is not intended to replace human police officers, but instead was there purely to augment their current force.

Back to the Future

The O-R3 also has some serious technology onboard. AS well as being a self-driving car, the O-R3 can recharge itself automatically, has thermal imaging equipment, 360-degree HD cameras, and can drive itself. The O-R3 also has an ace up its sleeve in the form of an onboard drone it can launch and recall itself, so even when it runs out of road, it can still follow and record individuals when necessary.

OTSAW have said that in principle, the Dubai Police have agreed to lease at least 100 units in three years’ time, and that the company is currently in talks with “multiple government agencies from different countries” in relation to using the O-R3. Currently the vehicle can be leased at am eye watering annual cost of $120,000. 

The O-R3 is to initially be deployed in Dubai’s main tourist area, which last year, attracted some 15 million visitors. While that may make the autonomous cop car seem like a PR stunt, the police force also has several high-performance sports cars in its current fleet of vehicles, including Ferraris and Lamborghinis, which it uses daily.