Volvo wants to replace garbage men with trash-collecting robots

Volvo ROAR Project
Adrian Wirén/Mälardalens Högskola
Taking out the trash is an inherently dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it. If Volvo’s ROAR project has its way, that someone won’t be a person at all, but rather an autonomous, two-wheeled robot.

“Imagine a robot that quietly and discreetly enters your neighborhood, collects your refuse bin and empties it into the refuse truck,” reads the brand’s press release. “It is done without waking the sleeping families and without heavy lifting for the refuse truck’s driver. This is the purpose of ROAR, a joint project with the aim to develop tomorrow’s smart transport solutions.”

If you’ve ever watched a science fiction movie, you might be feeling slightly on edge. Not to worry, though, because Volvo’s venture — which stands for Robot-based Autonomous Refuse handling — seems much closer to Wall-E than Blade Runner. The joint project involves Volvo, the Chalmers University of Technology, Mälardalen University in Sweden, Penn State University, and waste recycling company Renova, all with the goal of producing safe, quiet machines that streamline the trash collection process and reduce lifting strains on humans.

It’s much more than a cool idea, though. It’s yet another example of the continued automation of our society, a statement echoed by those pushing the project forward.

“Within Volvo Group we foresee a future with more automation,” says Per-Lage Götvall, Volvo Patent Coordination Manager. “This project provides a way to stretch the imagination and test new concepts to shape transport solutions for tomorrow.”

Autonomous tech is something Volvo knows a thing or two about. The automaker is currently in the midst of its “Drive Me” experiment, involving a plan to put 100 self-driving cars on the roads of Gothenburg, Sweden by 2017. The brand announced in February the development of a “complete, production-viable autonomous drive system” that uses onboard sensors and a cloud-based positioning system.

As far as ROAR goes, the involved parties will continue to develop and evaluate the technology until June 2016, when a prototype will be tested on a real garbage truck manufactured by Renova. What could possibly go wrong?

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