hitchBOT, the hitchhiking robot, is now making its way across Canada

He's the most famous automobile passenger since Kai the Hitchhiker. 


EJ Dickson


Published Aug 17, 2014   Updated May 30, 2021, 6:25 pm CDT

Your mom was right: Hitchhiking is dangerous, and you should never do it. Unless you’re a two-foot Canadian robot. Then it’s totally adorable.

That’s what we’ve learned from the tale of hitchBOT, a bucket-bodied robot that’s been hitchhiking across Canada since July. Because “robots cannot get driver’s licenses yet,” as it explains in a promotional video on its homepage, hitchBOT is depending on the kindness of Canadian strangers to make its way across the country, traveling from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Victoria, British Columbia.

Created by a team of communication researchers from Ontario, hitchBOT has a car seat attached to its torso, so it can be easily strapped into a car via seatbelt. The bot also has a built-in GPS system so researchers can track the project, as well as solar panels on its torso. The speech recognition software allows hitchBOT to answer basic questions, and when it needs to be recharged, it tells drivers to plug it into an outlet or cigarette lighter. (Which, all things considered, makes it sound like a much better passenger than a human being who would demand to stop at a gas station to pee every 20 minutes.)

While hitchBOT doesn’t exactly sound like the most scintillating of travel companions, it’s captured the hearts of motorists all across the country, and a page tracking its progress has garnered more than 43,000 likes on Facebook. So far, it’s traveled about 3,700 miles, and been picked up by Belgian tourists and Canadian rock band the Wild. If all goes according to plan, the talking robot will likely arrive at its destination later this week, where it’ll be greeted by a traditional Aboriginal canoe ceremony.

I’m on a boat. Well, a ferry to be exact. Victoria, I’m on my way. #hitchBOT @BCFerries pic.twitter.com/SPewf9rIq1

— hitchBOT (@hitchBOT) August 16, 2014

I need to recharge. Hitchhiking is tough. #RoboProblems #hitchBOT

— hitchBOT (@hitchBOT) August 13, 2014

The goal of the project, says hitchBOT co-creator David Smith, is to see how comfortable human motorists would be with the robot, as well as to determine how the robot would respond in unpredictable situations.

“What we wanted to do is situate robotics and artificial technologies into unlikely scenarios and push the limits of what it’s capable of,” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It’s challenging but it can also be highly engaging and entertaining as hitchBOT has proven.”

H/T St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Screengrab via hitchBOT/Vimeo

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*First Published: Aug 17, 2014, 2:55 pm CDT