Robotics

Volvo's robot refuse collectors ROAR into life

The ROAR project is aimed at showing how machines can communicate with each other and how, in the future, they will be able to carry out tasks now undertaken by humans
The ROAR project is aimed at showing how machines can communicate with each other and how, in the future, they will be able to carry out tasks now undertaken by humans
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The ROAR project is aimed at showing how machines can communicate with each other and how, in the future, they will be able to carry out tasks now undertaken by humans
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The ROAR project is aimed at showing how machines can communicate with each other and how, in the future, they will be able to carry out tasks now undertaken by humans
A drone is launched from the roof of the refuse truck to scan the surrounding area and locate bins
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A drone is launched from the roof of the refuse truck to scan the surrounding area and locate bins
ROARY navigates its way to each bin using a map of the area and the likely locations of bins, as well as the data provided by the drone
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ROARY navigates its way to each bin using a map of the area and the likely locations of bins, as well as the data provided by the drone
GPS and LiDAR are used to help the ROARY bin bot navigate and avoid obstacles
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GPS and LiDAR are used to help the ROARY bin bot navigate and avoid obstacles

In both an impressive display of innovative technology and a glimpse of a future in which humans could be redundant, Volvo has shown off its Robot-based Autonomous Refuse handling (ROAR) project. The system uses drones to locate refuse bins and robots to collect and empty them.

For the project, Volvo has collaborated with Chalmers University of Technology, Mälardalen University and Penn State University, all of which are part of its Academic Partner Program. Waste management firm Renova is also involved. The aim is to show how machines can communicate with each other and how, in the future, they will be able "to facilitate everyday life in a large number of areas."

"We predict a future with more automation," says project manager for robot development at the Volvo Group Per-Lage Götvall in a press release. "This project is intended to stimulate our imagination, to test new concepts that may shape transport solutions of the future."

The robot, called ROARY, is transported to the refuse collection site on the back of a refuse truck. An operator presses a button on the truck and this prompts a drone to be launched from its roof and begin scanning the surrounding area to locate bins. The locations of the bins are then relayed to the ground-based robot.

A drone is launched from the roof of the refuse truck to scan the surrounding area and locate bins
A drone is launched from the roof of the refuse truck to scan the surrounding area and locate bins

ROARY navigates its way to each bin using a map of the area and the likely locations of bins, as well as the data provided by the drone. GPS and LiDAR are used to help it navigate and avoid obstacles. Inertial measurement unit (IMU) data, from accelerometer and gyroscope sensors, are used to help the robot keep track of its position.

Once ROARY has arrived at the bin, it uses cameras and LiDAR to position itself, before extending its arms and lifting the bin onto its built-in platform. It then returns to the refuse truck and lifts the bin into position to be emptied.

There is an automated emergency stop function built into ROARY in the event that it detects an obstacle and a camera on top of the truck to detect if something gets too close to the truck while a bin is being lifted and emptied. An emergency stop button can also be used to manually halt any activity and the operator is able to monitor the location of the robot from the cab of the truck.

It took the team just four months to design and build the prototype robot and the first test was actually carried out ahead of schedule, having originally been planned for June this year. The video below provides an insight into the project and shows the test being carried out.

Source: Volvo

The ROAR project - robot and drone in collaboration for autonomous refuse handling

9 comments
Harap White
Dear Volvo and Daniel, in most places on Earth it is ILLEGAL to fly any kind of drone over people's heads
sagebrush6
Neat idea and I really love new technology but should something like this go into affect, how many jobs would be lost ? Would your garbage bill be reduced to compensate for the difference in labor costs ? NO ! How many garbage collectors are in each city/town ?
Bob Flint
Daniel, nice try but if it takes almost five minutes to pick up one bin, then you will never finish your route. Our refuse vehicles have mechanical arms that reach out controlled by the driver as he stops alongside the bins, the are grabbed, & dumped in less than 20 seconds each. No cameras, helicopters radar, lidar, etc. I rain shine, freezing rain, snowstorm's, etc...
POOL PUMPREAPAIR guy longwood
A fishing pole would be the item to have if you are a kid, these drones would be fun to snatch out of the air.
bergamot69
Guess that will be more low skilled jobs gone then.
Stephen N Russell
Need these for the US, awesome, reduce payments for trash companies alone.
CAVUMark
That pickup didn't take long.
JoeHollinger
Just because someone thinks they can do something, and wants to do it just to prove it can be done, does not make it a benefit to society. Designing robots that will do the work of humans is not a benefit of mankind. It is one more step towards the obsolescence of man. If there is no work for man to do, there is no need for man. We are here to populate the Earth and provide for ourselves and those we create. Robots as toys are fine. They are a detriment to the successes of mankind and its purpose. Hundreds of thousands of people would have jobs and be able to support themselves if it was not for robots doing the work they could do. Robots development is great on a small, specialized scales such as space travel that could take more than a lifetime for a man could be accomplished by robots that do not age out. Collecting rubbish is a job that man can do and he should be left doing so without the threat of scientific toys taking the food off of his families table and the clothes off of their backs. Do something beneficial, invent things that put people to work. Take robots out of assembly plants and let man do the work. Sure, quality control would probably decrease a bit but robots run on wrote and cannot adjust to the need for quick, momentary exigencies need to keep production lines rolling like man can. Man also learns all the little things that keep production rolling well and are not written into process manuals. These are called "hidden factory" and with the closing down of many many manufacturing industries all of that knowledge is being lost. Robots do not have dedication, loyalty, personal satisfaction with a job well done, and knowledge that cannot be stored in a database and applied by machines. In fact, it takes men to keep robots up and running. It takes man to reprogram them to different tasks. Robots would be boring lunch partners, they would just be there, not eating, drinking, or communicating. Kindly do not invent things that are not needed just because you can. That garbage robot could be reprogrammed to work for the gestapo and round up people like trashcans. Think about that for a minute.
binalith
Pretty terrifying view of the future you have there Joe. "save our misery!" "I've no use for the creative parts of my mind dammit, put me to work!" "Must build more character!" Your lunch pail is an anchor.