Meet your new driveway-clearing masters: Robot snowplows

They won’t arrive in time for this week’s “historic snowstorm Juno,” but a spate of prototype autonomous snow-clearing devices (aka snow-shoveling robots) might spell relief for future events.

Eight college design teams are in St. Paul, Minnesota with devices they designed to navigate and clear two snow fields in a set amount of time. Entries in the Fifth ION Annual Autonomous Snowplow Competition cost from $4,000 to $12,000 to build according to this report from local CBS affiliate WCCO. (Video here.)

Sponsors for the event included the Institute of Navigation, SpaceX, [company]Lockheed Martin[/company], [company]Honeywell[/company], [company]John Deere[/company], and [company]Toro[/company].

The point of all this is to create a:

 “snowplow vehicle that will autonomously remove snow from a pre-defined path. The competition invites and challenges teams in the area of high-performance autonomous vehicle guidance, navigation, and control. The competition is also designed to encourage student interest in the areas of mathematics, science, and engineering.”

One of the devices relies on a magnetic track embedded in the path that it can follow. Stay tuned for the results.

Given that Juno is supposed to dump two to three feet of snow on parts of the Northeast, I sort of doubt that these prototypes will make a dent, but hey they’re a step in the right direction.

Contestants in the 2013 Autonomous Snowplow Competition

Contestants in the 2013 Autonomous Snowplow Competition