Montreal's Metro Got A Robot Dog To Sniff Out Messes & Here's What It Found

You might even see it around the city more often. 🐾

MTL Blog, Associate Editor
​Robot dog in a Montreal metro station. Right: An STM train.

Robot dog in a Montreal metro station. Right: An STM train.

Montreal's metro not only allows regular dogs to ride the rails but their robot counterparts as well — or at least they're allowed to inspect local stations.

The Société de transport de Montréal (STM) partnered with local software company Osedea and robotics manufacturer Boston Dynamics to have a robot dog perform "automated and autonomous" inspections of station platforms as part of a pilot project.

For once, the roles are reversed, and it's the (mechanical) mutt that's cleaning up human messes.

The four-legged robot, aptly named "Spot," was programmed to observe Bonaventure metro station overnight for two months and "detect anomalies." The goal was to "automate inspection tasks and capture data safely, accurately and frequently," according to Osedea.

Spot the robot roaming Bonaventure metro station. Spot the robot roaming Bonaventure metro station. Osedea

For ten evenings between last May and September, Spot snapped photos of the platform "every 10 metres from different angles" to capture as close to 360 degrees of the space as possible.

Based on AI programming, the dog bot would fetch data about infrastructure issues, like missing or burned-out lightbulbs, and document the presence of trash, stickers or graffiti.

Using the information collected by Spot, the STM was able to identify trends, like which days of the week see more trash accumulate and how many bulbs burn out per month. It also had the data to determine when more or fewer workers should be present during a given shift.

Graffiti detected by Spot the robot in Bonaventure metro station. Graffiti detected by Spot the robot in Bonaventure metro station. Osedea

So, do Montreal STM workers now have to worry about robot dogs coming for their jobs?

"They’re not looking to replace employees, but to make their lives easier so they can focus on more important tasks," said Osedea, which shared the robot achieved 86% coverage, compared to a human, and 70% accuracy with no human intervention.

While the focus of this initial project was mainly customer experience, Osedea said Spot could still help with other metro sectors. Sensors could be added to capture metro air quality or check tunnels for cracks.

Even if the robot dog doesn't dig back into Montreal's metro tunnels any time soon, you might still see it around the city. Osedea is ready to rent out its doggo to local businesses wanting "to experiment with high-end, state of the art technology."

With the robot dog leaving its paw print on the metro line, who knows, maybe your vote for the worst station in Montreal will change sooner than you think.

Sofia Misenheimer
MTL Blog, Associate Editor
Sofia Misenheimer is an award-winning writer, editor and former radio journalist with a passion for finding hidden gems in the city.