Robot-Based Trash Collection

Penn State researchers and students are working on robotic trash collection. Their project is called ROAR (RObot-based Autonomous Refuse handling), a joint venture of Penn State, two universities and a waste recycling company in Sweden, and the Volvo Group.


(ROAR robotic garbage collection video)

With the help of instructions from a truck's operating system, and under the supervision of the refuse truck's driver, the ROAR robot will collect refuse bins, bring them to a garbage truck, and empty them.

"Within Volvo Group we foresee a future with more automation," said Per-Lage Götvall, project leader for the Volvo Group. "This project provides a way to stretch the imagination and test new concepts to shape transport solutions for tomorrow."

"We're very lucky to have an amazing cohort of students who are well trained in automation technologies," said Sean Brennan, associate professor of mechanical engineering and leader of the Penn State team. "This project promises great opportunities for our students to not only engage with a cutting-edge vehicle project, but also to help define how society will interact daily with robotic systems."

The robot will be designed at Mälardalens University and the operating system will be developed at Chalmers University. All three universities are part of the Volvo Group's Academic Partner Program, a network of twelve institutions collaborating with Volvo on research and recruitment.

In his 1956 short story The Velvet Glove, science fiction author Harry Harrison described robot trash collectors:

Carl had always known there were garbage trucks, but of course he had never seen one. It was a bulky, shining cylinder over twenty metres long. A robot driver was built into the cab. Thirty other robots stood on foot-steps along the sides.

The supervisor led the way to the rear of the truck and pointed to the gaping mouth of the receiving bin.

"Robots pick up the garbage and junk and load it in there," he said. "Then they press one of these here thirteen buttons keying whatever they have dumped into one of the thirteen bins inside the truck. They're just plain lifting robots and not too brainy..."

Via Penn State University.

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