Jul 302014
hitchhiking robot

Photo Credit: Desmond Kavanagh via flickr cc

About hitchBOT, the hitchhiking robot

In the 1960s and early 1970s, hitchhiking was an inexpensive, liberating, and almost romantic way for young people to travel. By the end of the 1970s hitchhiking was in decline. I missed the popularity of hitchhiking by a few years. I’ve never hitchhiked and I don’t pick up hitchhikers out of concern, rightly or wrongly, for safety.

But a hitchhiking robot? That I would stop for.

I recently heard a story on CBC radio about hitchBOT, a robot conceived by professors at McMasters University and Ryerson University. hitchBot set out on July 27, 2014 to hitchhike across Canada, starting at Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The robot doesn’t move so drivers must pick it up and put it in their vehicles. It does talk, although it is still practicing language skills and may spout nonsense at times. Drivers are asked to recharge it with their car cigarette lighters or a home power outlet if it runs out of power.

hitchBOT is equipped with GPS. You can track its current location on its website. People are invited to share their own hitchhiking stories on the site.

How cool it would be to be a part of hitchBOT’s journey. Watch for it as you travel through Canada.

Update August 2015: In 2014, hitchBOT crossed more than 3,700 miles in Canada. Early in 2015, hitchBOT successfully crossed The Netherlands and Germany. Sadly, on August 1, 2015, just two weeks into its USA journey, hitchBOT’s journey came to an end. The child-sized robot was found damaged beyond repair by vandals in Philadelphia.

  4 Responses to “A Hitchhiking Robot?”

  1. Thx for alerting us to the roaming bot, Donna. Cool idea, but it would be nicer if it could chat!

    • I believe he can chat. It does have speech capacity. But there is a warning on the website that language skills are still developing (don’t know if that implies some artificial intelligence so the robot will learn along the way) and sometimes won’t recognize what you’re saying and respond with nonsense. But it sounds as it at times you could have a conversation. It will be interesting to hear stories from people who’ve given it rides.

  2. A robot hitch hiking, Thats sounds crazy. I’d love to come in contact with it.

    • It would be fun to come in contact with it.I check its progress periodically on its website. This morning it looks like it has made it as far as Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

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