John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
It crossed Canada and made it to Europe, but things took a turn in the U.S.
Farewell, sweet robot—you were too innocent for the savage roads of the U.S.A.
HitchBOT, a trashcan-shaped bot whose mission was to hitchhike around the world, has met its untimely end in Philadelphia. Canadian researchers made the mechanical freeloader as a social experiment to see how far drivers would carry it. The robot had crossed Canada on a 6,200-mile-plus trip, and traveled around Europe to crash a wedding in Germany, before meeting grave misfortune on America’s East Coast.
It was hardly two weeks after hitchBOT began in Marblehead, Massachusetts, that somebody in Philly pulled out its arms, knocked off its head, and threw the mangled body in a pile of trash and leaves. A CBS editor posted this image of the delimbed bot Saturday:
The pointless destruction has people alternately hating Philadelphia and mocking hitchBOT for even attempting the journey:
@boring_as_heck Hitches get stitches.— Twiττer's Good Boy (@twitersgoodboy) August 2, 2015
@boring_as_heck why did they program him to feel pain— Canti Smith (@adrianfer15) August 2, 2015
@boring_as_heck Can't go around hitch hiking across the US with that smug look on your face and NOT expect to get smacked around.— THAT Guy (@diesel_3) August 2, 2015
The dudes who built hitchBOT sound bummed, but in a statement say they won’t pursue criminal action as they “wish to remember the good times.” Here’s more:
I guess sometimes bad things happen to good robots! My trip must come to an end for now, but my love for humans will never fade….
We know that many of hitchBOT’s fans will be disappointed, but we want them to be assured that this great experiment is not over. For now we will focus on the question “what can be learned from this?” and explore future adventures for robots and humans.