After Quickly Crossing Canada, HitchBOT Stuck in Massachusetts

Photo of author

( — July 26, 2015) — A talking robot, attempting to hitchhike across the US is a part of a social program that aims to collect the data of human behavior when they encounter the robot. With its thumb raised, the HitchBOT was left in Boston Massachusetts on his way to San Francisco, California. However, it is still driving around Boston.

The folks that picked up the AI hitcher, apparently drive it all around as they liked, but not where HitchBOT actually needed to go. Seven days after starting its journey, the robot still hasn’t left Massachusetts.

Last summer, the robot quickly completed its route across Canada. However, the HitchBOT was taken by people more interested in taking selfies with the machine than to set it on its way.  

“Often we ask whether we can trust robots and it is a kind of vision of a dark future in which robots could be our overlords,” coauthor of the project Dr. David Harris Smith from McMaster University told RT News, adding that the experiment so far has reversed the question.

“In this case we kind of reverse the question: if human beings are making robots to accomplish goals, would it be possible that these autonomous machines can trust humans?” Dr. Smith said.

The robot, about the size of a 10-year-old child, is immobile and thus completely dependent on humans, complete strangers, to understand what it is, put it in the car and transport it from place to place.

It has a bucket for a body, foam noodles for arms and legs and wears yellow rubber gloves and patterned rubber boots. The head is a square LED display that can only show messages. HitchBOT is equipped with GPS navigation and with its humanized voice, it can engage in limited conversation and give people random facts from Wikipedia.

“Please pick me up and put me in your vehicle,” hitchBOT says when he’s sitting on the side of the road. “I want to experience the American dream. Along with my newly shined willies, I will be bringing a bucket list I made with the help of my family.”

HitchBOT also, can snap its own photos and post his voyage on a social media. Although it looks simple, it took hundreds of hours of programming to enable hitchBOT to “live” independently among humans.

“It’s a little bit like launching a Mars mission,” Smith says. “We’re sending something away from the people who can actually fix it.”

HitchBOT became an internet sensation after catching 19 rides in just 26 days, covering some 10,000 kilometers in Canada. The robot also took a European vacation visiting Munich, Cologne, Berlin, and Hamburg in Germany, and some sites in the Netherlands.