Research project to develop refuse collection robot

Sep 16, 2015 | Research/Cooperation

Imagine a robot that quietly and discreetly rolls into your neighbourhood, picks up your garbage and throws it into the truck. This happens without waking sleeping families and without heavy lifting by sanitation workers. That is the objective of ROAR, a cooperative project aiming to develop tomorrow’s smart transport solutions.


MDH is currently involved in a joint project with the Volvo company, Chalmers in Göteborg and Penn State University in the US, as well as the waste and recycling company Renova, to develop a robot whose work can be coordinated with the garbage truck and its driver.

The project is named ROAR, RObot based Autonomous Refuse handling, and the objective is to develop a robot that, with the help of instructions from a control system in the truck, fetches the garbage bins, takes them to the truck and empties them. All of this takes place under the supervision of the truck driver, who will also avoid heavy lifting in this manner.

The idea behind ROAR is to demonstrate how we, in the future, can use smart machines for assistance in society. The technology can be applied in many different areas, of which refuse handling is only one example.

– At Volvo, we predict a future with more automation. This project is a way to let the imagination flow and test new concepts for tomorrow’s transport solutions, says Per-Lage Götvall, Volvo’s project manager.


MDH and the other two universities are part of Volvo’s Academic Partner Program, a network where Volvo brings together twelve academic partners for long-term cooperation in research and recruitment. The students and the universities have different tasks and roles in the project. At MDH, the robot itself is designed.

– It’s exciting for us to combine advanced research with our study programs in robotics. Many students will work with this project, and it is an enormous opportunity for them to learn both about the technology and to work in a team and in an authentic industrial context, says Mikael Ekström, docent in robotics at Mälardalen University.

At Chalmers, students work with the general control system.

– At Chalmers, we have been developing technology for the control and coordination of autonomous systems for many years, and we think that we can handle complex problems of the type that is represented by refuse handling. This will be a fun and challenging project for our dedicated researchers and motivated students, says Petter Falkman, docent in automation at Chalmers.

Penn State University will develop the graphics, the communication system and the control panel for the driver of the truck.

– We have a fantastic group of students who are well educated in automation technology. Here they can get involved in a groundbreaking vehicle project while they simultaneously helping to define how society can integrate robot systems, says Sean Brennan, who manages the project from Penn State.

The project extends until June next year, and the technology will be tested with Renova’s vehicles in Göteborg.

– Renova has long been a leader when it comes to developing transport technology for a better natural and work environment. This project offers exciting perspectives for the future, says Hans Zackrisson, head of research and development at AO Logistik, Renova Miljö.