ATMs from Absa bank in South Africa have gone hot with their latest means of fighting thieves — they are now equipped with pepper spray.

The cash machines make use of cameras and special software that detect miscreants tampering with the card slots. The autonomous ATM apparently makes the decision to use pepper spray without the assistance of a human operator.

"But the mechanism backfired in one incident last week when pepper spray was inadvertently inhaled by three technicians who required treatment from paramedics," according to the The Guardian. Patrick Wadula, spokesman for the Absa bank, which is piloting the scheme, the Mail & Guardian Online: "During a routine maintenance check at an Absa ATM in Fish Hoek, the pepper spray device was accidentally activated."

Science fiction fans have been steeling themselves in preparation for this real-world development after reading about the fierce Lucky Dragon ATM in sf writer William Gibson's 1999 novel "All Tomorrow's Parties":

"Identify yourself, please." Lucky Dragon ATMs all had this same voice, a weird, uptight, strangled little castrato voice … probably kept people from standing around, [talking] with it… If you seriously tried to dick with one, drive a crowbar into the money slot, say, the thing would mist you and itself down with water and then electrify itself.

(Read more about Gibson's Lucky Dragon ATM)

This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission of Technovelgy.com.