I don’t mind mowing my front and back yard. Too much. I mean, I’d like to think that it’s a chore for my kids, but their schedules and a general lack of enthusiasm for the task means that while the front might be mowed every few weeks, the back yard can get to be as thick and unwieldy as a jungle between mows. Which is why when I had the chance to work with the team at Husqvarna to try out one of their super smart and fancy Automowers (the only one on the market with a true GPS positioning system!) I was all in.
The way I figure it, we’re on our way to a SkyNet singularity when the robots end up in control, so I might as well enjoy the journey with my robot lights, vacuum, garage door opener and furnace. Why not add mowing the lawn to the list of “smart” tasks these little chip-based creatures can help me out with? 🙂
Since the particular Automower that Husqvarna sent us (model 430XH) works in a manner that’s not dissimilar to the wires of an invisible animal fence (proximity sensors that can detect if you’re “in” or “outside” the loop) the install was a bit of a task: A single unbroken wire needed to be buried around the entire perimeter of my front and back yard. More importantly, since the Automower – who we’ve nicknamed Horatio – can keep both the front and back yards neatly mowed, we needed a path between the yards. Tricky. The biggest obstacle: My darn fence. I know, very American to have our yards neatly sectioned off by fences. Solution: We chopped out a hole for Horatio to sail through as needed, then built him a little path with paving stones to make the journey easier:
There’s a certain level of satisfaction sitting and watching the Husqvarna mower go back and forth across the lawn, cutting and cutting and cutting, but it’s really in the app that all the fun and interesting activity occurs. Well, there and the on-board brain of the device itself, of course, but you can’t really monitor what’s going on other than with the app anyway.
I chatted with one of the Husqvarna engineers about the design of the Automower app and how the 430XH works with the app a few days after the install, which revealed an interesting cultural difference: In Europe, where Husqvarna is based, their customers don’t care about data, maps, settings, anything. They just want to have it do its job without bother. “Is it mowing? Then you’re good.”
Us technerd Americans want more, however, so while the app offered a cool map showing the path of the mower, I wanted even more accessible information and suggested that for our market, there are plenty of customers who would want ‘advanced data mode’ with better visualizations, indications of where the mower gets confused on its route, etc. Hopefully in the next version of the app!
For now, the app lets you alternate between two views: Mower status and mowing coverage map:
One of the key features is on the lower left: “Timer“. By jumping into this control, you can set when the mower should start and stop every day of the week. I have mine to turn on at 8.30am and mow non-stop until 8pm each night. Seven days a week. So in one week it tallies up an impressive 80 hours of mowing. Imagine if I were paying the local kid minimum wage to mow that much! In fact, though, the Husqvarna Automowers are designed to basically just shave the very top off the grass blades on a daily basis. So its mowing pattern is way more redundant than any human would ever utilize.
And that takes some getting used to: you watch it mow where there’s not a single blade out of place on the lawn, but that’s because it’s doing the right thing. Another thing that might surprise you is that it’s ridiculously quiet. So quiet that you could easily sit on your deck and chat with a friend while it whirred away in front of you and barely even notice it’s close. Makes me even more aware of how darn noisy my neighbors are with their ancient 20th century gas mowers.
By the way, if you’re thinking someone could just grab it and run, they have a lo-jack type security system and PIN security that can’t be overridden. So the thief would end up with a 60-pound paperweight and feel pretty dumb about it, while I tracked location on the app and had the local sheriff help with device recovery!
Finally, since there are no OSHA regulation for robo-mowers yet, not only does the Husqvarna 430XH work as many hours as you’d like (even 24 hours/day if you wanted) but it can work perfectly well in bad weather too. The neighbor kid is going to run home if it starts raining, but Horatio? He’ll keep chugging along (silently) during a drizzle, rain, hail, a downpour, whatever. In fact there’s no weather sensor so if the weather is dire, you’d want to manually choose “PARK” to get him back to his charging plate.
Which leads to the final observation: This thing does one heck of a job on the lawn. My backyard has never looked so clean and trimmed as it does now with Horatio on the job. The front yard’s getting there too, though we had some hiccups with the great fence gate path that we’re working out as it “learns” my yard better. I’m a big fan and it works way better than I would have expected. Now to invent a sweep-bot to keep the paths and sidewalk clean at the same time… 🙂
Product Info: Husqvarna Automower 430XH. Price starts at $2699 + installation kit.
Disclosure: Husqvarna sent me an Automower and installation kit in return for me sharing my experiences over this summer of mowing. Which was super nice of ’em. #automower #automowerfirst #sponsored