Canadian Robot on U.S. Road Trip Meets Untimely End in Philadelphia

Saturday, August 08, 2015
HitchBOT thumbing for ride during fateful U.S. road trip (AP photo)

The introduction of robot technology into human society has often raised the question of whether people could learn to trust robots. But two Canadian professors wanted to find out the answer to the opposite question: Can robots trust humans?


The answer, based on what happened to hitchBOT, would seem to be “no.”


HitchBot, a hitchhiking robot, spent considerable time wandering across Canada and Europe without trouble. But it took only a couple weeks in the U.S. for the robot to meet a violent end. While traveling through Philadelphia, hitchBot had its head, arms and legs torn off.


Its U.S. trip began in Boston, and continued through Salem, Gloucester, Marblehead, and New York City before trying unsuccessfully to get through Philadelphia, the “City of Brotherly Love.”


After learning of hitchBOT’s demise, its creators wrote online: “sometimes bad things happen to good robots.”


“It was quite a setback, and we didn’t really expect it,” Frauke Zeller, one of hitchBOT’s creators, told CNN. “We were spoiled by the kindness of other people who had looked after hitchBOT.”


HitchBOT, according to its creators, was “both an artwork and social robotics experiment,” they told The Atlantic. “Usually, we are concerned whether we can trust robots, e.g. as helpers in our homes. But this project takes it the other way around and asks: can robots trust human beings?” they told the magazine.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

HitchBOT, the Hitchhiking Robot, Gets Beheaded in Philadelphia (by Todd Leopold, CNN)

Robot’s Death in Philly Aggravates Residents (by Gina Carrano, Courthouse News Service)

HitchBOT’s Final Moments in Philly (by Amanda Schupak, CBS News)

Man Arrested for Shooting Robot (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Humans Help Robots on City Streets (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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