Penn State researchers help develop robot-based refuse collection

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- One day soon, thanks to a team of researchers that includes Penn State students and faculty, a robot a lot like Pixar's memorable Wall-E could arrive on your street and empty your trash bins while you sleep.

This is the purpose of ROAR (RObot-based Autonomous Refuse handling), a joint venture of Penn State, two universities and a waste recycling company in Sweden, and the Volvo Group.

With the help of instructions from a truck's operating system, and under the supervision of the refuse truck's driver, the ROAR robot will collect refuse bins, bring them to a garbage truck, and empty them.

"Within Volvo Group we foresee a future with more automation," said Per-Lage Götvall, project leader for the Volvo Group. "This project provides a way to stretch the imagination and test new concepts to shape transport solutions for tomorrow."

Students at Penn State's Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute are developing the graphics, communication systems, and control panel for the truck driver.

"We're very lucky to have an amazing cohort of students who are well trained in automation technologies," said Sean Brennan, associate professor of mechanical engineering and leader of the Penn State team. "This project promises great opportunities for our students to not only engage with a cutting-edge vehicle project, but also to help define how society will interact daily with robotic systems."

The robot will be designed at Mälardalens University and the operating system will be developed at Chalmers University. All three universities are part of the Volvo Group's Academic Partner Program, a network of twelve institutions collaborating with Volvo on research and recruitment.

Plans call for the technology to be tested in June 2016 on a vehicle developed by the Swedish recycling firm Renova Environment.

The Volvo Group is one of the world's leading manufacturers of trucks, buses, construction equipment and marine and industrial engines. With production facilities in 19 countries, it is a publicly held company headquartered in Göteborg, Sweden.

Contacts: 

Michael Casper

Work Phone: 
863-7922
Last Updated October 20, 2015