Could Calgarians someday see autonomous snow-removal equipment being used to clear city sidewalks and pathways?
Snow-clearing robots are among the items on display in Calgary on Friday at the Western Canadian Snow and Ice Management Summit.
Steve Wheatcroft, the summit’s executive director, says Edmonton already used autonomous snow-removal equipment in a pilot project last year.
“This year, they’re going to be using some of these in downtown Edmonton to clear city sidewalks,” Wheatcroft explained.
“We GPS and geo-map all the sidewalks. These actually leave on their own from a garage or facility and actually drive around the city cleaning off sidewalks and return.”
“This is just where things are going with technology,” Wheatcroft added. “It’s really neat to think you’re going to be out there seeing sidewalks cleared by robotic snow-removal machines.”
As with autonomous vehicles, some may be concerned about the potential for human injury if snow-removal robots were to be used.
“They do have a sensor around them, so they can sense anything that approaches them,” Wheatcroft explained.
“So if something approaches them, they just shut down and sit there.”
If the autonomous snow-clearing machines do sense something and shutdown, Wheatcroft said a message is sent to operators who can then use cameras on the machine to see what the obstruction may be.
City of Calgary spokesperson Chris McGeachy said they will have representatives at the show to check out the new technology.
“The City of Calgary is always looking for ways to improve our snow and ice control efforts,” McGeachy told Global News.
“Calgary is a winter city and snow is inevitably coming,” he added. “We’re currently getting our equipment ready and working on scheduling our crews. Right now we’re just watching the long-term forecasts so that we can be prepared to tackle the snow when it does hit Calgary.”
“Thankfully, the crews that do the winter operations are the same crews that are out there right now paving, doing sidewalk work, picking up material off of the road – so those crews will be ready to go when we see snow in the forecast.”
The City of Calgary has a snow removal budget of just under $40 million between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, and McGeachy said they’re still within that budget for 2019.
About 30 different manufacturers are expected to attend Friday’s summit, which brings together professionals in the snow and ice management industry.
“It’s an outdoor show so we can fire up equipment, we can operate it, see how it runs,” Wheatcroft said.
Among the new advances in snow-removal technology that will be on display are new edge systems to better peel up packed-down snow, in addition to snow-melting equipment.
“It melts it, basically vaporizes the snow and discharges the water into the sewer or sanitation system,” Wheatcroft explained.
The show wraps up at 5 p.m. on Friday.
– With files from Matthew Conrod and Silvana Benolich