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hitchBOT displayed at an exhibition

hitchBOT was a Canadian "hitchhiking robot" created by David Harris Smith of McMaster University and Frauke Zeller of Ryerson University.[1] It gained international attention for successfully hitchhiking across Canada and in Europe, but in 2015 an attempt to hitchhike across the United States ended shortly after it began when the robot was destroyed by vandals in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[2]


Original hitchBOT in collections.

The robot had a cylindrical body composed mainly from a plastic bucket, with two flexible "arms" and two flexible "legs" attached to the torso. The top section of the cylindrical body was transparent, containing a screen which displayed eyes and a mouth, making the robot approximately humanoid in external appearance.[2]

The robot was able to carry on basic conversation and talk about facts, and was designed to be a robotic travelling companion while in the vehicle of the driver who picked it up. It had a GPS device and a 3G connection, which allowed researchers to track its location. It was equipped with a camera, which took photographs periodically to document its journeys. It was powered either by solar power or by cigarette lighter sockets in cars.[2]

The robot was not able to walk – it completed its "hitchhiking" journeys by "asking" to be carried by those who picked it up.

It was created as a social experiment. The robot's "hitchhiking" was reported by the press in many countries.[2]


From July 27, 2014 to August 21, 2014, it hitchhiked across Canada from the Institute for Applied Creativity at NSCAD University[3] Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Victoria, British Columbia.[4][5]

A second hitchBOT machine was made,[6] and in February 2015 it was hitchhiking around Germany for a few days.[7]

HitchBOT attempted to cross the United States from Boston to San Francisco starting in July 2015.


On August 1, 2015 a photo[8] was tweeted, showing that the robot had been decapitated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

On August 3, 2015 Adam Gabbatt reported on the Guardian website about hitchBOT's destruction. Frauke Zeller, co-creator of hitchBOT, was quoted saying:

"We can see on all our data that the tablet and battery and everything shut off at the same time so it must have been when they vandalised the bot,"

The article also states:

She said Hitchbot’s body had been found by some good samaritans who had located the roving robot through a regularly updated map on its website. "They sent us images and it’s really beyond repair. There’s not a single wire inside and all the things are broken."[9]


The first hitchBOT is a permanent exhibit at the Canada Science and Technology Museum.[6]

Other social experiment robots[edit]

Zeller has also created an art critic robot called kulturBOT.[10]


  1. ^ Madrigal, Alexis C. (June 12, 2014). "Meet the Cute, Wellies-Wearing, Wikipedia-Reading Robot That's Going to Hitchhike Across Canada". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2015-02-20.
  2. ^ a b c d Dave, Paresh (2015-08-03). "Hitchhiking robot that made it across Canada maimed on U.S. road trip". LA Times. Retrieved 2015-08-04.
  3. ^ "hitchBOT Announces start date for Canadian hitchhiking journey" (PDF). Hitchbot.me. June 13, 2014. Retrieved 2015-02-20.
  4. ^ Posner, Michael (December 20, 2013). "In our love affair with machines, will they break our hearts?". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2015-02-20.
  5. ^ "hitchBOT". hitchbot.me. Retrieved 2015-02-20.
  6. ^ a b "Famous hitchBOT is alive and well — and settling down in Ottawa". Retrieved 2016-08-26.
  7. ^ "My German Adventure". hitchbot.me. Retrieved 2015-02-20.
  8. ^ https://twitter.com/AndreaWBZ/status/627627830520770560
  9. ^ Gabbatt, Adam (August 3, 2015) hitchBOT's decapitators avoided capture by the hitchhiking android's cameras The Guardian website retrieved 2015-08-05.
  10. ^ Madrigal, Alexis C. (May 19, 2014). "Two Robots, Both Alike in Dignity". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2015-02-20.