BeachBot Buggy Cleans by Collecting Cigarette Butts

Autonomous vehicles are hot topics and all the rage these days as innovators develop new technologies designed to advance the science behind machines driving themselves. However, not all AVs are meant for daily drivers or even personal use. One new autonomous vehicle model is made for beach life, destined to clean the environment by picking up cigarette butts autonomously. It’s like a robot vacuum, only with a precise mission to clean up debris from America’s nastiest habit.

A beach robot big brother to the Roomba

Cigarette packets and other trash washed up on Chesil Beach after a cargo ship accident
Cigarette packets and other trash washed up on Chesil Beach | In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

clean environment continues to be a hot topic of conversation. According to the EPA, the amount of U.S. consumer waste continues to rise, more than doubling over the last 50 years. Single-use disposables, trash, and plastics find their way into rivers and along beaches at a growing rate. Furthermore, some of the most detrimental waste comes from cigarette butts, with their prolonged disintegration rates and harmful chemical-seeping properties.

BeachBot is here to contribute as an autonomous vehicle designed specifically to comb the beaches and pick up cigarette butts. It faces a daunting challenge with data suggesting roughly 4.5 trillion cigarette butts strewn across the planet. However, entrepreneurs Edwin Bos and Martijn Lukaart of TechTics developed this quasi-Roomba big brother with artificial intelligence, a series of cameras, and robotic arms to aid in the environmental cleanup effort.

This new AV made its world debut at Scheveningen Beach last September, where it scooped up 10 butts in half an hour. As Business Insider points out in a recent article, that’s not terribly impressive in the big scheme of things. However, “BB,” the shortened name of the robot, leads the way as a prototype for now and promises a new way of autonomous vehicle capabilities well into the future. 

The BeachBot concept is revolutionary

Measuring 80 centimeters wide, a little wider than 2.5 feet, the BeachBot uses onboard cameras to find cigarette butts and avoid obstacles as it navigates. It has two arms with grippers to dig into the sand to grasp butts it then collects in onboard receptacles. For now, the autonomous vehicle model can run for approximately one hour on a full battery charge.

It’s no Wall-E, says MotorTrend, but the BeachBot is certainly out to help the environment, one cigarette butt at a time. This beach rover features giant, puffy tires, ideal for sandy beach crawling. Meanwhile, the artificial intelligence platform uses the Microsoft Trove app, which provides and condenses photos of cigarette butts across all US beaches. This aids in the AI’s ability to find and dispose of those nasty butts.

Future plans for autonomous vehicles


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TechTics founders were inspired by visiting Scheveningen beach, where kids found cigarette butts buried in the sand. The company as a whole seeks to resolve social issues with the development of enriched technology. Only now, the co-owners are on a new mission. Plans for the BeachBot include improving the tech capability to identify and clean up other beach debris. There are also plans to incorporate autonomous vehicle prototypes in smaller forms to assist other environmental beach efforts. Some of the other ideas involve AVs that run on solar energy, as well.

The BeachBot is here and represents a new frontier in the world of autonomous vehicles. You might even see one soon at a favorite beach near you. It promises that clean environment initiatives will continue to evolve with the help of AI technology and passionate environmentalists.