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Do Robot Mowers Really Work?
FARM SHOW first reported on robot mowers back in 1993 after spotting one at the SIMA show in Paris (Vol. 17, No. 1). As far as we know, we were the first North American publication to run a story on them.
  Several versions of the mower are now on the market around the world. Even U.S. mower giant Toro has a robot mower this year.
  Consumer Reports magazine recently put one of the robot mowers through its paces.
  The Robomow from Friendly Robotics measures 25 in. wide, 36 in. long, and operates on two 12-volt rechargeable batteries. It weighs 78 lbs. You run a wire around the perimeter of your lawn. On-board sensors detect the wire and also sense obstructions like buildings and trees, automatically changing direction to work around them. Basically, the mower "grazes" your yard like a sheep, working it's way quietly over the enclosed area.
  At a suggested retail of $795, the Robomow is comparable in price to a top-of-the-line- walk-behind mower.
  Here's what Consumer Reports found when they tested the Robomow:
  "First, the good points: The Robomow is relatively easy to set up. Its battery-powered signal prevents it from wandering off. You move the mow-bot out of your garage and onto your lawn using a remote control. Then, you press a button and, after a digital trumpet fanfare, it's off and running. The manufacturer says it's especially good for seniors or those who find it hard to operate a regular mower. It's quiet, too.
  "But there are drawbacks:
  "The robot is s-l-o-w. It took an hour to mow an area 35 by 35 ft., and 2 1/2 hrs. to mow a 50 by 50-ft. area. Using a gasoline push mower, it took us 7 and 12 min., respectively. Also, you're supposed to keep an eye on your robot. This can get tedious.
  "The mower misses patches - roughly 5 percent of your lawn. If your teenager did a comparable job, you'd send him or her back to redo the work. The manufacturer advises you to simply mow the lawn more often with the Robomow, but considering the time involved, it could become your second job. Also, it cuts in random patterns, which will bother people who like a neat - looking lawn.
  "Its lead-acid battery supplies power for only about 2 1/2 hrs. and then requires a 24-hr. recharge.
  "While it's fun to dream, there are better choices than the Robomow. These include cheaper push mowers and cordless electric mowers. Or just buy a comparably priced self-propelled mower that's easy to start and operate and that cuts better to boot. Or hire the kid next door."
  You can read more at www.consumerreports.org. or call 1-800-208-9696.
  For more information on the Robomow, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Friendly Robotics, 1414 W. Walnut Hill Lane, Irving, Tex. 75038 (ph 888-404-7626; Web site: www.friendly robotics.com).

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2001 - Volume #25, Issue #3