MDH students develop autonomous bicycle and an autonomous refuse-collecting robot

Dec 27, 2018 | Student Research/Cooperation Global

Autobike and Unicorn are the names of two student projects being conducted in collaboration between students, researchers and company partners in two different research projects. The final year students at the M.Sc. Engineering programme in Robotics, and the Master’s programme in Intelligent Embedded Systems, have been working, during the autumn, with developing an autonomous bicycle and an autonomous refuse-collecting robot.

During the final year of the M.Sc. Engineering programme in Robotics, the students devote a whole semester to working with a clear-cut project. During the autumn, the students have been working with the student projects Autobike and Unicorn.  

– Working with a clear-cut project like this is fun since we can challenge ourselves and test the knowledge we have amassed during the four years we’ve been here, says Mohammed Mahmoud, who has been working with the Autobike project.

Unicorn – autonomous refuse-collecting robot


Photo of the refuse-collecting robot and the students who has been working within the Unicorn project.

Unicorn: Mujtaba Hasanzadeh, Sebastian Andersson, Marielle Gallardo, Alexandra Hengl, Sweta Chakraborty och Ulrik Åkesson.


The goal of the Unicorn project is to develop an autonomous refuse-collecting robot that can drive between homes in a residential area to collect the domestic refuse and drive this to a recycling station. In this way the refuse can be collected more often, the noise level be reduced, and private individuals don’t need to drive off to a recycling station with their refuse.

– The purpose of Unicorn is to simplify and improve the conditions for refuse collection and waste sorting for domestic households. The project is based on a previous project in which we developed a refuse-collecting robot which could facilitate the work of emptying refuse bins. In connection with the Roar project, the idea emerged of developing small, autonomous robots that drive round in residential areas and empty the rubbish several times a week, says Mikael Ekström, Associate Professor of Robotics and in charge of the course.

The Unicorn project is a collaboration project between MDH, Chalmers, the City of Gothenburg, Hiab, Husqvarna, PWS and the Volvo Group, where the various parties focus on different parts of the project. At MDH it is the students from the M.Sc. Engineering programme in Robotics, and students from the Master’s programme in Intelligent Embedded Systems who have been working with the project during the autumn.

–  We have been working on developing the system for robot localisation and the system for how the robot is to be able to lift the refuse bin, as well as clearly showing the robot’s intention, says Ulrik Åkesson, a student who has been working on the Unicorn project.   

In that several robots will be able to collect refuse in the same residential area there are a number of aspects to take into account.

– To make sure that people in the area will not be afraid of the robots and feel safe in their proximity, we have been working on getting the robot to show clearly which direction it will go, says Alexandra Hengl, a student who has been working on the Unicorn project.

The students who have been working on the project have had different areas of responsibility and have had collation meetings with the collaboration parties.

–  Working in this way is new to us and it has been very instructive. It feels like a good way to become prepared for working life, says Sebastian Andersson, a student who has been working on the Unicorn project.




Autobike – autonomous bicycle


Photo of autonomous bike and the students who have been working within the Autobike project.

The purpose of the Autobike project is to develop an autonomous bicycle that can be used in test environments for autonomous cars. Before autonomous cars are launched on the market they are tested in test environments to ensure that they work as they should do and can for example give way to a cyclist who pops up unexpectedly.

– In today’s test environments bikes that are drawn by means of ropes are used. However, in this project we’re going to develop a bike that is autonomous and behaves like a cyclist, says Mikael Ekström.

This project is being carried out in collaboration with MDH, Chalmers, AstaZero, Cycleurope and Volvo Cars. During the autumn, the students have been working with everything from the choice of bicycle and development of the electronics, software, programming and the mechanics to the implementation of the control system and testing of the bike.

– We are responsible for the actual building of the bike and the design of the control system that enables the bike to be entirely autonomous and self-balancing, says Therèse Eriksson, who has been working on the Autobike project.

During the course of the project the students have had a good deal of focus on getting the bike to balance. To succeed with this they have made use of a simulator in the computer.

– We’re using the simulator to test the balance in the computer before testing it on the real bike.  The simulator works like an indicator, so when the balance works in the simulator we test the balance on the real bike, says Therèse Eriksson.

Useful for working life

Both the projects are to continue next year as well. Then the students who are reading in year 5 will take over and continue with the development of the project. The students who have done this year’s course have appreciated it and seen it as a preparation for working life.

– It’s enormously valuable to us to feel what it’s like working with collaboration partners, working towards deadlines, towards delivery dates and with all the documentation around it. The course has been like a soft start for working life, says Therèse Eriksson.