A New Era Of Robotic Garbage Men Is On The Way

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The future is coming soon……a future of artificial intelligence.  Fears about human workers losing their jobs to machines have been fueled by a 72 percent increase in the number of industrial robots in the U.S. over the past decade.  Although the investment in artificial intelligence (AI) is soaring, this are about to get a lot worse.  Highly efficient robots on wheels could be hauling trash in a neighborhood near you.

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Swedish auto manufacturer Volvo is developing these useful robots, which will be able to roll around a neighborhood, pick up waste bins and chuck the trash into the back of garbage trucks.  The automaker is collaborating with Chalmers University of Technology and Malardalen University in Sweden, Penn State University in the United States, and the waste recycling company Renova to build a robot that interacts with a garbage truck and its driver to collect trash.  The robots appear to be roughly humanoid in appearance, with a Segway like locomotion mechanism.  A drone will take off from the top of the garbage truck, survey the area locating waste bins, then send data wirelessly to the robot.  Avoiding obstacles the robot will make its way to the bin, extend its arms, raise the bin and then deposit the garbage for collection in the back of the truck.  “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 system,” stated lead of the Penn State team, Sean Brennan.

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The objective of the project called Robot-based Autonomous Refuse handling or ROAR is to introduce a robot that, after receiving instructions from a truck’s operating system, can collect garbage bins in a neighborhood, bring them to a refuse truck, and empty them.  The garbage truck driver supervises this process, so a human is still involved in the process.  About 66,000 people in the United States were employed as refuse and recyclable material collectors in 2014.  Per-Lags Gotvall, project leader for the Volvo Group says that ROAR “provides a way to stretch the imagination and test new concepts to shape transport solutions for tomorrow.”

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Though the company says the aim is not to replace garbage collectors entirely.  As new robotic technologies continue to revolutionize the global workspace, will humans accept this change without a fight.  Volvo says the technology is scheduled to be tested on vehicle developed by Renova in June 2016.  That friendly nod you received from the garbage man may soon be a thing of the past.  It’s a dirty and dangerous job, but somebody or something has got to do it!!