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February 5, 2018

Shovel no more! The SnowBot Pro clears sidewalks and driveways for you

by John_A

Your days of shoveling the snow may be behind you. Not because winter is going anywhere (we would hate to instill any false hope), but rather because technology may be able to do the job on your behalf. Meet the SnowBot Pro from Left Hand Robotics, a commercial-class, self-driving robot whose sole purpose is to clear the snow so that you don’t have to. After all, your time is too precious to be spent shoveling sidewalks and walkways.

This hefty robot was initially intended for use in residential areas, but the team soon realized that the machine would be better suited for commercial applications. “Snow and ice management companies, property managers, government agencies, etc. all face significant labor challenges when it comes to sidewalk and pathway work in the winter,” Mike Ott, chief technology officer of Left Hand Robotics told OEM Off-Highway last fall. “Securing the necessary labor force on short notice, in harsh conditions, for strenuous, dangerous snow removal work is very difficult.”

But not so with the introduction of the SnowBot Pro. The autonomous vehicle follows a programmed path that is determined by GPS and accelerometer and gyroscope technologies, and can be controlled from afar using an online dashboard. In order to actually remove snow, the SnowBot Pro uses a 4-foot-wide rotating brush, and is said to be able to reduce the number of people needed for shoveling by up to 80 percent.

This is due in part to the company’s claim that the SnowBot Pro is able to navigate and detect unexpected obstacles even without a human operator present. The bot leverages high-precision GPS RTK technology in order to make its way up, down, and around streets. According to Ott, human contractors will first “record” the sidewalks and paths the bot will ultimately take using a special tool (this doesn’t have to be done in the winter, making the process far less arduous). These paths are then uploaded to Left Hand Robotics’ cloud-based operations center, whereupon they’re turned into a series of commands that the machine uses to drive itself.

Once the snow falls, the gas-powered SnowBot needs only a human to open an app on his or her smartphone and press start. The robot will do the rest. SnowBot Pros are currently in production for the 2018-2019 season, and folks willing to pay a $1,000 deposit will be able to hold their spot in line to order one of these bots once they’re made widely available.

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