Will Europe's Hitchhiking Robot Survive America?

Hitchbot's creators have put the robotics freeloader at the mercy of the interstate system.


Programmed with little more than a thumb and a smile, Hitchbot’s trusting circuit board has been across Canada and Europe thanks solely to the kindness of strangers. Now the innocent robot comes to the U.S., and the real challenges begin. The CBC reports that Hitchbot is starting out in Salem, Massachusetts and is programmed to try and make it to San Francisco in one piece for his own summer of electronic love.

Hitchbot, which is child sized, can’t actually move under its own power, so it is completely reliant on whoever sees it by the road. There are no consequences for desecrating it or leaving it in the woods. It also needs to be charged every once in a while, something it can’t manage on its own. In essence, it’s Amber Alert bot. But it’s also a pleasant enough companion, making some light conversation, offering some interesting trivia, and making weirdly stilted jokes.

Co-creator Frauke Zeller of Toronto’s Ryerson University called it “an art project in the wild,” which seems as good a description as any.

If you’d like to see what kind of trouble Hitchbot’s gotten into along the way, it keeps an active Twitter for a respectable audience of more than 30,000 followers. It’s programmed to take regular pictures to document its journey, but only posts to social media if its temporary companions agree. Now if only it could chip in for gas.

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