Technology Hitchin’ A Ride

I saw something about this while looking at Twitter. The first time I saw it, it just sort of made me raise my eyebrows. Then I saw it again, and I gave it some more thought.

So here’s the story, as much as I understand it. Some researchers in Toronto have built a hitchhiking robot. But it isn’t a science project, it’s some kind of collaborative art project.

The sole purpose of Hitchbot is to get from Nova Scotia to B.C. by bumming rides. Oh, and it will document its journey on social media. If you pick up hitchbot, not only will it try to make small talk with you with the aid of Wikipedia, but it will take pictures of you and your car and post them everywhere. It also has a GPS so researchers can see where it’s going.

But don’t worry, if you pick it up, it’s not going to turn into Carjackbot or anything. Apparently the only part it can move is its hitchhiking arm. So it’s pretty much at your mercy. And I guess that’s the point of the art concept. We’re always worried about how much we can trust robots, so I guess this asks the question of whether robots can trust us…and I guess makes us wonder how good most of us are.

I can’t help but notice that I’m worried about this robot’s fate. Sure, there are a lot of good people out there, and if people knew about the project, it might be kind of amusing to pick up a small robot and drive it along its way. Hell, I almost wish I could drive and was going its way so I could see what kind of chatter it would try to make with me. But a. there are tons of people who won’t know what the hell this thing is, and b. there are some real assholes out there. I keep envisioning Hitchbot being melted down for scrap.

Plus, there are just generally crappy drivers and unobservant folk out there. I hope that Hitchbot doesn’t become Hoodbot.

One thing amused me in the article. It said if you wanted to, you could take Hitchbot home to meet the family, or take it to parties…if it consents. It can’t move. I don’t think it has a choice. Cute, though.

I guess it starts its journey at the end of July. Silly me might end up checking in on it from time to time. It’s a neat idea, I just hope its creators aren’t disappointed. I really hope not, because that would speak to the crappy side of humanity.

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