Learn about our new technology here – not on the side of the road
By Justin Fujioka
It's easy to get distracted by cool, new technology. If you've ever been around someone using a drone, you know what we mean. But lately, our maintenance workers have noticed drivers getting a bit too interested in some of our roadside work.
Our maintenance crews are using remote-controlled lawn mowers, and they've been turning some heads, which isn't necessarily a good thing.
|Our remote-controlled lawn mower is able to safely handle areas that might be hazardous to our workers.|
The remote controlled lawn mowers kind of look like mini tractors with no one behind the steering wheel. That is, if there was a steering wheel, which there isn't. A ghost-driven lawn mower? No wonder the head turning, right?
Unfortunately, with the head-turning comes some close calls, and drivers have actually been pulling over into our work zones to ask questions about this intriguing grass-cutting gadget! While we love talking about the work we do, a work zone really isn't the best place to do it, and distracted driving is the last thing we want to see. So we thought we'd share some information about the mowers – along with a nifty video of them in action – so you can keep your eyes focused on the road when you see them in person.
|The remote-controlled mower can easily move over most debris, but a rubber hose presents a challenge. Luckily, it's easily removed.|
There are three significant advantages for having these 80-horsepower devices: safety, mobility and efficiency.
Many of the areas we mow are littered with all sorts of things hiding under the tall brush. On a riding mower a lot of that stuff – like rocks or sharp plastic and glass – can kick back up and hurt our crews. With a 1,000-foot range, the RC mowers allow operators to stand at a safe distance.
You've likely seen some of the steep slopes along our highways – especially along I-5 in downtown Seattle. Can you imagine how nervous you might be riding a lawn mower in some of those areas? Armed with rubber tracks with steel cleats and spikes, combined with a low center of gravity, our remote controlled mowers can handle up to a 60-degree slope without rolling over.
Even though it's smaller in size than a traditional riding lawn mower, the RC units allow our maintenance crews to cover more area in a faster amount of time. That's because the RC mowers can cut taller and thicker grass and there's even an attachment that allows it to cut through heavy shrubbery – including the always tough blackberry bushes.
|The mower controller has a few more switches and buttons than an Xbox controller.|
These $80,000 machines can't cut through everything. A few things – like rubber water hoses – will get caught in the blades. But, untangling the hose from an RC mower is much faster than with a riding one, allowing our crews to get back to work faster.
Summer is almost here and our RC mowers will be out in force. We agree they're pretty cool to see, but please keep your eyes on the road when you pass one, and let our workers keep their eyes on the machine.