Autonomous technology is becoming ubiquitous in every facet of our lives, from the way we clean our homes to transportation. While the technology still isn’t quite perfect, the mechanical industries are constantly researching and developing new avenues for autonomous systems. Honda is one such company that has brought autonomous functionality to a sector you may not have previously considered: lawn mowing.
The Japanese automobile manufacturer has unveiled the all-electric prototype Honda Autonomous Work Mower (AWM), its first battery-powered electric zero-turn riding (ZTR) mower aimed at boosting worksite efficiencies through autonomous solutions.
Honda says it successfully field-tested a proof-of-concept version of the Autonomous Work Mower with a top U.S. commercial landscape company earlier this year. Next year, it will begin a pilot program to further advance the prototype AWM’s development. It is seeking companies to participate in assessing the AWM’s applicability to their work environments.
The Honda AWM prototype perfectly combines top-notch cutting performance and operator comfort with high location accuracy and obstacle detection. Thanks to its zero emissions, it is an eco-conscious solution that helps reduce the carbon footprint.
The AWM can operate in manual or autonomous mode, depending on the user’s preference. A “Teaching” mode allows the operator to manually maneuver the machine to create a mowing route map using the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) for accurate location recognition.
During this process, the AWM learns the operator’s mowing route and patterns, which enables it to learn the entire worksite for high-quality lawn striping, position accuracy, and safe operation. The operator can create customized mowing route maps for multiple job sites, which are then saved to a secure cloud server.
Once the “Teaching” mode is complete, the operator can launch the AWM’s autonomous operation in “Playback” mode. To initiate the autonomous operation, the operator downloads the specified mowing route map using a tablet or smartphone while the AWM is in the starting position.
The AWM then begins autonomous operation and mows according to the map route, providing consistent and stable grass-cutting quality. This gives the operator ample time to attend to other areas of the property and can lead to improved efficiencies.
The Honda AWM’s unique traction control system helps it maintain straight tracking on hills and rough terrains. In addition, its differential 2-motor traction control suppresses tire slip to achieve stable straight-line and turning performance even on slopes and rough roads.
Weighing at around 625 kg, this autonomous mower has a top speed of 10 mph (16 km/h) in manual mode and 6 mph (10 km/h) in autonomous mode. It comes equipped with a 60-inch cutter deck with three 21-inch cutter blades, 13 x 6.5 inches front, and 24 x 12 inches rear tire.
The AWM also features a number of built-in safety features, including omnidirectional sensing as well as radar and LiDAR sensors for obstacle detection. It also can sense terrain variations and stop when encountering obstacles.
“Our development of the prototype zero-turn Honda Autonomous Work Mower comes at a time when technology is shaping the future of the landscaping industry,” said Hirokazu Hara, vice president of New Business Development, American Honda Motor Co., Inc, in the press release. “To address labor shortages and help support companies’ sustainability goals, the Honda AWM aims to provide zero-emission alternatives to gasoline-powered mowers that can reduce operating costs and help accelerate the electrification of landscape maintenance equipment.”