Travels with Spot

robot passenger

So how do you transport your robots if you need to take them somewhere? We might usually think of packing them on a truck, but Professor John Murray of the University of Sunderland just took Spot with him on the metro.

Spot as a traveling companion

Spot, the familiar quadruped from Boston Dynamics, was apparently a hit with passengers and train staff alike.

“I think the passengers were surprised to see a robot dog on the Metro and many were keen to have their photo taken with him. During the journey, there were many questions about what he’s for and what he can do,” Prof. Murray told The Mirror. “Normally we take him to events in the car, so it was good to get him out and about to see how we can take him around the city and meet new people.”

Prof. Murray, like many robot enthusiasts, definitely anthropomorphizes his four-legged companion.

“He certainly caused a buzz and enjoyed the attention,” he said.

Is it legal?

Spot — although this particular robot is called Bernard —  moseyed along the platform and waited for the train, and then clambered onto the train and moved around the compartment. We can easily believe that the robot was a popular passenger, with human passengers wanting to take selfies and ask questions.

But is it legal? Or would it be legal in he U.S.? We checked the Amtrak website to see about passenger trains, and found that animals “including comfort animals” are not allowed. You can buy a service animal a ticket on certain trains, but you couldn’t just bring a biological dog to the train station with you and climb on the train.

You also can’t bring power tools or machinery on a train. Ditto for appliances and batteries. It sounds like either way Spot would not be welcome on a passenger train in the U.S.

But Bernard wasn’t on a railroad train, so we also checked on subways. While you can play Robot Wars in a virtual subway car and station setting, it looks like bringing Spot onto the subway would not be acceptable. The MTA’s list of fines includes the following:

  • Carrying long objects: $75
  • Carrying obstructive objects: $75
  • Carrying hazardous objects: $75

An “unauthorized animal” is only $25, so that might be a better way to go if you think that Spot might be counted as long, obstructive, or hazardous. However, there are specific rules against noise-producing objects and hoverboards are expressly forbidden, so we think robots would generally not be welcome on the MTA.

We’re glad to hear that Bernard got to ride on the metro and that passengers got a chance to hang out with a robot during their commute. It seems like a good thing.