Volvo is spearheading an effort to develop refuse robots and tech-enhanced dump trucks to revolutionize waste management. The project, which features the work of researchers at three universities and recycling company Renova, is called ROAR: Robot-based Autonomous Refuse. The technology to be demonstrated with ROAR will be applicable throughout society; the stated goal is to show how automation and smart machines can make a difference in the near future.
The concept and execution are both very simple. Rather than a team of human trash collectors, the garbage truck driver would be supported by a team of robots who do all the heavy lifting. The smart bots will enter neighborhoods and remove garbage without making much noise. ROAR is set to be tested in mid-2016.
There are several obvious reactions to this news. First, trash robots seem like a natural byproduct of our quick transition into the automation age. Second, this doesn’t bode well for waste disposal employees. Expect those of them represented by unions to react very strongly against projects like ROAR. Finally, it’s significant that Volvo is already pushing automation — even if not self-driving technology — into its fleet of commercial vehicles. Could semis and tractor trailers be next?