TL;DR: Robotic lawn mowers have been around for years, but you probably have not seen one quite like Honda's latest. The Honda Autonomous Work Mower (AWM) is an all-electric, zero-turn riding mower with a twist. Under normal operation, it can be run by a human just like any other riding mower. While in manual mode, the machine learns mowing routes and patterns used by the operator so when you switch over to autonomous mode, it can reproduce the routes and patterns, and free up time to work on other tasks.
The AWM is designed for lawn care and landscape companies to help address labor shortages and sustainability goals, Honda said. The mower is capable of learning entire worksites, and the operator can create different route maps for multiple sites, which are saved to a secure cloud server.
Honda's mower uses GNSS (global navigation satellite system) for location recognition, and features a traction control system to maintain straight lines on hills and rough terrain. Omnidirectional sensing as well as radar and LiDAR sensors help with obstacle detection, and the speed-linked blade motor controller can automatically reduce blade rotation at low speeds to conserve battery life. Under high loads, the AWM can slow its travel speed to avoid clogging or not fully cutting the grass.
Earlier this year, Honda conducted a field test with a top US landscape company and plans to roll out a pilot program for others to participate in starting in 2024.
A mower of this caliber certainly isn't for everyone, but it is a nice alternative to "traditional" robot mowers that are hardly any larger than indoor robotic vacuums. Efficiency is paramount in the landscaping industry, and the ability to have workers focus on more high-value tasks while the mower is cutting the grass would no doubt be of benefit.
Honda didn't mention potential pricing or battery life. Considering they still want to perform at least one additional pilot program, the AWM is likely a couple of years away from general availability.