Last summer, an enterprising robot named hitchBOT set off on an ambitious transcontinental voyage across Canada, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Victoria, BC. Along the way, the adorable hitchhiking android crashed weddings, hung out with rock bands, and attended a Wikwemikong powwow ceremony.
To quote our own 2014 article about hitchBOT's inaugural road trip, dated almost a year ago, "we at Motherboard worried that the trooper might meet a tragic end (and we weren't the only ones). But fortunately, our fears were groundless." The headline: "Canada's Hitchhiking Robot Completed Its Trip Without Getting Murdered."
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for hitchBOT's attempt to hitchhike across the United States. Two weeks ago, the robot set off on its journey in Boston, with the aim of making it to San Francisco by summer's end. But after being dropped off in Philadelphia, hitchBOT was vandalized, decapitated, and dumped by the side of a road. Way to go, City of Brotherly Love.
"[H]itchBOT's trip came to an end last night in Philadelphia after having spent a little over two weeks hitchhiking and visiting sites in Boston, Salem, Gloucester, Marblehead, and New York City," announced the hitchBOT team in a statement.
"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," the team said. "For now we will focus on the question 'what can be learned from this?' and explore future adventures for robots and humans."
Hitchbot was last seen intact on August 1, when YouTube personality Jesse Wellens dropped the robot off. Wellens tweeted that he had left the robot at Elfreth's Ally, and it was destroyed shortly afterwards.
Roboticists David Smith, and Frauke Zeller emphasized that they would not be attempting to find or press charges against hitchBOT's attackers, and that they will release more details about the future of the experiment on August 5.
With the robot's head still at large and its arms torn off, it's unlikely that this version of hitchBOT will be traveling anytime soon, but let's hope that future incarnations of the robot will brave the highway shoulder.
After all, the entire point of this project was to provide a platform for studying robot-human interactions, and the robot's sad demise is undeniably a part of that dataset.