Impact Story

Automating a better urban experience

Modern city living has a lot of upsides. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.  

Garbage collection comes to mind. Without it, life would be unbearable, if not impossible. But it is noisy. And assaults the senses. And snarls traffic. In the sustainable cities we all aspire to, garbage collection surely presents an opportunity for modernisation, digitalisation and improvement.  

With that in mind, funding from Drive Sweden and Vinnova, and in partnership with Robot Minds AB and Nordvästra Skånes Renhållnings AB (NSR), Helsingborg City has turned its innovation gaze towards automation. Specifically, the efficiency and sustainability improvements that could come with robotic waste collection.  

The trial, already in operation, will determine if such a platform is practical, safe, requires any additional infrastructure or resource allocation and is economically feasible. It is also being assessed for its contributions to noise and pollution reduction, any required changes to legality frameworks and general impact on positive urban living.   

Just add robots  

For the pilot, a self-driving robot will be trained to collect full garbage bins from waste storage rooms in city buildings. The robot will then take the bins to a central collection point, where the city’s regular service empties the bins and transports the waste for further processing. 

Sensors send a signal for the robots when a bin is full. Data from the sensors can also be used to predict when and where bins will become full, optimising planning of collection routes.  

The designed-for-purpose robot and resulting platform will be continuously tested in real-world conditions in the Oceanhamnen district of Helsingborg, where other sustainability initiatives such as “Tre rör ut” water and biomass source sorting are already being assessed. The project team will monitor and control the robot system, and gather and share feedback from all stakeholders, including residents.  

Putting transformative innovation to work  

Today’s heavy garbage trucks may be necessary, but they’re also a burden, especially in dense urban environments. A robotic-assisted platform could lower that noise, congestion and pollution burden significantly, and specifically to Helsingborg, bring the city that much closer to its 2030 goal of being entirely climate neutral.  

The spinoff benefits of a safer and cleaner environment for residents and businesses would include making the city more appealing and equitable—and attracting more community-members and talents from the region, country and beyond to make Helsingborg home.  

As a product of cross-collaboration, a working robotic waste management platform would be a strong example of the transformational global impact innovation that’s possible when government, business and academia put their minds together. For the time being, its benefits will be experienced by Helsingborg. But as a model of critical infrastructure for urban sustainability, its potential is borderless—a working example for more smart cities around the world to follow on the road to climate neutrality.  

NSR - Automating a better urban experience

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