A Cleaner Public Space Through Robots

MADE Student Project

The Dutch metropolis of Amsterdam deals with a waste problem. Both the inhabitants and tourists in Amsterdam experience nuisance from litter. The future growth of Amsterdam will only amplify this problem. To address this, the municipality needs to increase the productivity of the Schoon department, the department tasked with keeping the public space of Amsterdam clean. Therefore, the responsible and effective introduction of a cleaning robot is researched. During a series of walk-along days, interviews, experiments and observations, I identified multiple themes, important for the job satisfaction of the Schoon employees. This knowledge, combined with observed knowledge on practical challenges caused by the design of the Amsterdam public space on the cleaning activities, translates into a number of design qualities for a future cleaning robot.

References can be found inside the document.

An exploratory research into the introduction of a cleaning robot in the Amsterdam Schoon department

The results of this research seem to indicate that this cleaning robot could best be deployed during the shifts tasked with brooming the streets and emptying the trash bins, the Veegshift and Vuilnisbakkenshift respectively. During those shifts it can potentially assist in cleaning the street using the RAVO mechanical streetsweeper and emptying trash bins respectively. Assisting during those two tasks frees up manpower that can be utilized to increase the productivity of those shifts. The findings further highlight that this future robot should not compromise the freedom experienced by the Schoon employees in how they carry out their work. Nor should this robot replace the Schoon employees, as this would remove the human interaction with bystanders, an aspect of the work greatly appreciated by the employees. The loss of human interaction might also lead to a more monotonous situation, which is the opposite of the variety enjoyed by the Schoon employees during their work. The future robot should also be user friendly, allowing everyone in the department to operate the robot. Furthermore, the robot must be able to communicate its status, intentions and possible help requests and offers to its Schoon colleagues. Overall, the introduction of a cleaning robot can improve the cleanliness of the city of Amsterdam when the design incorporates the themes important for the job satisfaction of the Schoon employees, aims at an efficient human-robot collaboration through clear communication and combines the right type of autonomy with the challenging Amsterdam environment.

Afbeelding credits

Header afbeelding: Responsible Urban Digitization