What kind of tasks could service robots perform in cities? AutoMod – Autonomous and Modular Utility Vehicle concepts in CE project (AutoMod project) examined how mobile robots could be used in maintenance and circular economy tasks.
New robotics solutions are being developed and tested all around Europe and Finland. The objective of the AutoMod project was to create a new kind of business ecosystem, where service robots transported on moving platforms solve circular economy challenges in smart cities. In addition to promoting business in robotics, the AutoMod project also aimed to explore what kind of robotic solutions could address circular economy challenges in cities.
The project sought out modular robotic solutions that could solve circular economy challenges in urban environments. Competence and expertise in mobility, robotics and circular economy were used as background information. These skills had been amassed in robot bus projects, service pilots carried out with drones, last mile logistics pilots and projects connected to the digitalisation of circular economy.
The project identified significant potential for robots, especially in tasks related to waste management and logistics. It was also noted that robotics could potentially address workforce shortages or perform monotonous and hazardous tasks, and thereby achieve cost savings. In the circular economy around construction and demolition, new robotics solutions could bring significant economic benefits.
The AutoMod project sought out modular robotic solutions that could solve circular economy challenges in urban environments. The aim was to discover new robotics solutions while also providing companies with the opportunity to develop their technology. To identify suitable contributors, two innovation competitions were held: one for concepts and another for prototypes.
The AutoMod project shared knowledge about the possibilities of robotics by organizing numerous lectures and workshops featuring prominent Finnish robotics experts as speakers. Additionally, awareness about robotics and project insights were disseminated through videos produced within the project and in the form of a portfolio titled “Robots in Cities,” both of which will remain available after the project’s conclusion.
New robotics solutions are being developed and tested all around Europe and Finland. In addition to promoting business in robotics, the AutoMod project also aimed to explore what kind of robotic solutions could address circular economy challenges in cities. Cities are a challenging environment for robot developers, putting their imagination and problem-solving skills to the test, so applications for especially circular economy are still limited. For this purpose, the project mapped out the current situation of robotics in Finnish cities, organized innovation competitions, developed concepts and prototypes, and created a “robot ride-sharing” platform that could potentially transport robots performing various tasks in the future.
We aimed to detect bottle necks that prevent the spread of new kinds of circular economy robotics in urban environments and on a national scale. The open sharing of these findings will hopefully help both companies, authorities and residents to understand what kind of changes must be made in regulation, permit practices and guidance to allow for development in the field of robotics.
Benefits for Helsinki
The project offered many new insights to robotics for the City of Helsinki. AutoMod aimed to find new solutions to circular economy development areas collected previously. Use cases demonstrated how autonomous mobility and service robotics could benefit the City in offering services.
It is also important from the point of view of the City to offer testing opportunities for new innovations and opportunities for the development of new cooperation and business networks as well as provide concrete guidance, help and growth training for companies.
There is a need for a broader examination of robotics in urban environments and understanding the impacts of robotics on, for instance, urban planning. Currently, the number of companies specializing in robotics or autonomous mobility in Uusimaa or the rest of Finland is quite limited, and new robotics solutions, such as those for urban maintenance, have yet to be permanently implemented. At the end of the project, the conclusion was that the project was slightly ahead of its time, and the Helsinki area is not yet fully prepared for small scale modular robotics on platforms related to circular economy. Nevertheless, development work is worth continuing in the Uusimaa region.
Duration, partners and funding
- Duration: the project will run from 2021 to 2023
- Partners: Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and the City of Espoo
- Sponsors: European Regional Development Fund (the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council in Finland), matching funds from the City of Helsinki
- Total budget: 681,716 euros
The role of Forum Virium Helsinki
Forum Virium Helsinki coordinated the AutoMod project and was in charge of promoting the spirit of the project as far as partners and interest groups are concerned. Forum Virium also increased its own expertise in autonomous service robotics during the project. The objective was to innovate and create with an open mind