Who or what is Hugo?
Hugo is a friendly autonomous delivery robot that roamed the Chalmers Johanneberg campus for some months in 2020. The initiative was a collaboration between Chalmers, the City of Gothenburg, several private companies and the Berge company that designed Hugo. He is slightly larger than a motor lawnmower, moves at walking speed with a maximum of 15 kilometers per hour and can carry a load of 80 kilogram.
Hugo is a hero – he wants to save lives. He does this by handling the last-mile delivery of packages. Although his task may seem humble, he can actually make a big difference by reducing the number of transport vehicles on the road. In addition to this, he does not contribute to air and noise pollution in the same way that cars and trucks do. With this in mind, a large part of Hugo’s goal is to reduce road accidents as well as the unnecessary use of fossil fuel resources.
HUGO and Chalmers
When Per initiated this project, the goal was to investigate how to optimize and automate deliveries on campus. Deliveries are mostly brought to a station on campus, and then distributed to the relevant people/departments. To automate this process, the team had to determine how “robot-friendly” Chalmers Johanneberg campus was. The questions they wanted to answer were the following: Can an autonomous robot successfully deliver parcels around campus as it is now? If not, what needs to change in terms of infrastructure and architecture to achieve this (door systems, loading and unloading stations, walkways etc.)? And, lastly, how does such a technology fit into society? Are people open to accepting such developments?
These questions aligned perfectly with the work that Berge was doing with Hugo, who needed a controlled environment to verify our robot friend’s performance. In this sense, Chalmers Johanneberg campus offers the perfect test model for what HUGO may face in real life - like a sandbox for a city, if you will. Not only are the results of this project relevant for Chalmers, but also for urban development in a society where automation and the Internet of Things is becoming ever more a reality.
What did they learn?
Hugo faced some significant challenges due to Corona and a reduced presence on campus. Ironically, the pandemic demonstrated a situation that would have greatly benefitted from technology such as Hugo, had it already been developed. To overcome this, the team often had Hugo traverse set routes to reach certain points around campus without any physical packages to deliver. Despite the setbacks, the project was a resounding success. Per notes that the students responded particularly positively towards the robot, compared to other people who were more uncomfortable or suspicious of Hugo. This could be due to the fact that students at Chalmers tend to be technology and innovation orientated, and thus open to change.
Where is Hugo now?
The Hugo project came to conclusion in early 2021 – unfortunately new students won’t be able to meet our robot friend anymore. However, after seeing the success of Hugo on campus, Five Star Campus was inspired to investigate further autonomous solutions around campus. The spiritual successors to Hugo are the autonomous driving shuttles that travel around Lindholmen. You can read more about the project, which has been ongoing since 2017, here
As for Hugo himself, he is continuing his adventures outside of Chalmers. You can find more information about new developments here
Five Star Campus is a cooperation between Chalmers and Johanneberg Science Park, and they are busy with a whole host of interesting developments at Chalmers. If you are interested in what they are doing, or if you want to be part of their future projects, there is always the possibility to collaborate. For more information you can visit this link