With Raspberry Pi, Your Trash Can Takes Itself to the Curb

To save himself some work, Ahad Cove built a self-driving garbage can that takes itself to the curb whenever the garbage truck shows up.

There are many benefits to home ownership, but there are also many downsides. Sure, building equity is great, but replacing a broken air conditioner puts a damper on things. Chores are also a hassle. Yard work alone is more than most of us want to deal with, and in most residential neighborhoods in the US you have to wheel your garbage can across that yard once a week. Your HOA probably requires that you keep your garbage can out of sight the rest of the time. To save himself some work, Ahad Cove created a self-driving garbage can that takes itself to the curb whenever the garbage truck shows up.

For this system to work, Cove first had to come up with a way to tell the trash can when it should go to the curb. He could have setup a simple schedule to send out the trash can early on the morning of trash day and then have it come back sometime later in the day after he was sure it had been emptied. But he instead came up with a more sophisticated solution. He used an NVIDIA Jetson Xavier NX single-board computer (SBC) with a webcam to watch the street. A computer vision system uses object detection to spot the garbage truck when it’s coming down the street. As soon as the garbage truck is detected, the trash can makes its way to the curb.

The trash can is stored inside of Cove’s garage. Fortunately, he already had an Internet of Things (IoT) garage door opener, so it was a simple matter to send the command to open the door. The trash can is driven by a scooter wheel with a built-in hub motor, and that receives power from a 36V LiPo battery via a standard motor driver board. Commands are sent to the driver board from a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+. The Raspberry Pi also controls a servo that actuates the brake on the scooter wheel. When the garbage truck is detected, the system tells the garage door to open and then tells the trash can to drive the 40 or so feet to the end of the driveway before braking. The garbage collectors can then empty the trash can and put it back in the driveway!

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