As perhaps one of Canada's most well-known national symbols, the humble snow plow has not changed much over the years. Its primary goal is to move snow from one place to another, clearing paths for drivers and pedestrians alike. Since its 2019, a Winnipeg-based company decided that it's time for an upgrade.
The Richardson International Airport, in collaboration with Northstar Robotics and Airport Technologies, introduced the world to Otto, the world's first self-driving automated snow plow. Otto did a fantastic job at clearing a section of the airport this weekend, which begs the question, when will Montreal get our own Otto?
TL;DR The Winnipeg airport introduced us to Otto, the world's first self-driving snow plow this weekend. Is a new wave of automated snow plows about to hit the streets of Montreal? Quite possibly, if it all goes according to plan.
For now, plans are for Otto to continue clearing sections of the Winnipeg airport until the end of winter. He's only on a trial run at the moment, but he's expected to be fully autonomous and operational by next winter, according to reports.
#ICYMI: WAA partnered with @NorthStarRobot and Airport Technologies Inc. to unveil North America’s first autonomous runway snowplow, Otto. Get the full story here: https://t.co/8oKOWYZkDS pic.twitter.com/k8iHm1rUuo— Winnipeg Airport (@YWGairport) March 15, 2019
Depending on how it plays out, we could potentially see Otto or his cousins in Montreal sometime in the near future.
Otto is controlled by an iPad, following pre-programmed GPS routes and uses RADAR to move through his environment. Right now, he's operating on his own in some less-trafficked parts of the airport, but Northstar Robotics expects him to take on tougher jobs as his technology develops.
Otto uses a wireless motion detecting system in order to automatically stop and move away from potential obstacles. Much like the self-driving features and automatic stopping technology used by cars these days, Otto is super safe and easy to use.
I don't know if it's his colour scheme or the fact that he's basically a snow Roomba, but Otto is super cute. In airports, having a fleet of Ottos could be a great idea because of how often Canadian airports are shut down because of snowstorms. The fact that he's automated can also reduce the danger of driving a snow plow in zero-visibility conditions.
Since it's Otto's first ride, he still sometimes needs a human operator to get over some kinks. However, even once he's fully operational, snow plow operators won't have to worry about losing their jobs. Otto still needs a technician to turn him on and program his path into the iPad.
Whether or not Otto and his technology progress to city driving, it'll be interesting to see what happens. For now, I don't think it's a good idea to have self-driving snow plows in the streets, especially in Montreal.
But, we can all agree on Otto being adorable for a snow plow and we hope that he does his very best!
Stay tuned for updates!