Robbie the Robert in front of city hall. (City of White Rock photo)

‘Robbie the Robot’ to help city staff mow grass

White Rock city staff say robot will not replace jobs for humans

A futuristic world of intelligent robots roaming the streets and maintaining green-space may be closer to reality than one might suspect.

Last month, the City of White Rock announced its newest staff member to its ranks, and said he will be more efficient than his human counterparts.

Although “Robbie the Robot” may lack artificial intelligence, the city says the radio-controlled Spider ILD02 slope mower is “able to cut in 10 minutes what 2 staff can cut in approximately two hours using line trimmers.”

The City of White Rock posted a photograph of the robot to its Facebook page on April 4, adding that city staff were familiarizing themselves on how to control the equipment.

According to the manufacturers website, the 367kg, 24 horse-power machine can get up to eight kilometres per hour, and steer in 360 degrees. Manufactured by Dvorak Ltd. of the Czech Republic, the climbing ability of the unit is up to 41 degrees.

“This will help our parks team be safer and more efficient,” the city wrote on its Facebook page.

Peace Arch News requested last month to speak with an appropriate city staff member about the equipment, but as of press time Thursday that has yet to happen.

In the city’s Facebook post, some comments questioned whether the use of the machine will eliminate jobs for humans. The city responded, saying that the robot will not replace city staff, but rather helping staff maintain steep areas in a safe manner.

“If you’ve ever tried to mow on a steep hill, you will know how difficult and dangerous it is, so I think a robot mower is great,” Chris Gunn commented on the city’s post.

“For all the people complaining about cutting jobs, it still requires staff onsite to unload, load and supervise. Having said that, are you… willing to pay more for property taxes to pay wages and benefits for more workers? Didn’t think so.”

Two residents asked how much the city paid for the equipment, which did not receive a response from the city.

The manufacturers website does not list a price for the robot, however, the Chicago Tribune reported that the maintenance department of Illinois Tollway purchased the exact model for $42,000 USD ($53,869 CAD) in 2013.

Illinois Tollway nicknamed its machine “Spider-Man.”

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