New temporary town 'employee' ready to roll in Erin

·2 min read

If you see a four foot high robot roaming the streets of Erin later this month, don't be alarmed. It's there on official town business.

For the second year in a row, Erin has contracted the services of a sidewalk inspecting robot from the Kitchener-Waterloo based startup, Top Hat Robotics.

The town announced the return of the "new temporary town 'employee" in a newsletter last week.

Using a series of cameras, the machine looks for and measures cracks, step hazards and dips in the sidewalk. It then uploads the information to a geographic information mapping system providing the exact location and details of required repairs.

Town director of infrastructure services and engineering, Nick Colucci, said Erin was contacted by Top Hat Robots about participating in the pilot program last year.

"The results were very good, so we decided to do it again this year," Colucci said.

He explained sidewalk inspections need to be done annually and are normally performed by town staff, but the town found the robot did an accurate and cost-effective job that didn't require any staff time.

The town will pay Top Hat Robotics $995 to have the machine survey all of Erin's sidewalks the week of Aug. 16. The process is expected to take around three days.

Because the program is still a pilot and the robot is not fully autonomous, the machine will be followed by a "handler," Colucci explained.

"They're actually gathering data on how it reacts with things, like say there's a pole that's close or a pedestrian on the sidewalk," he said.

Top Hat's ultimate goal, as Colucci understands it, is to have the robot be fully autonomous and able to work unsupervised.

The company is also piloting the robots as sidewalk snow plowing machines.

"I think it's kind of the way of the future where you can have 24 hour maintenance of the sidewalk and not have to have staff working 24 hours," Colucci said.

Alison Sandstrom, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com

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