Roombas Are Coming

The most ridiculous thing about our culture is the way everyone cuts their own grass.

Every Saturday morning – you’re enjoying the quiet — when all of a sudden a lawn mower fires up. Then you hear another one. One after another, every Saturday morning. My wife calls it Lawnmower Season.

But why does everyone have their own $400 lawn mower? Except for one hour a week, it just takes up room in your garage. I think it’s a bit silly.

Cutting grass is a perfect use case for autonomous vehicles, also called self-driving. You’ve seen those little robot vacuums that drive around your house (occasionally with cats on them). These robot vacuums drive in a straight line until they hit something, then they turn around, and repeat. They’re pretty silly, but they do a good job. There’s even a version that mows your lawn.

Imagine these robots were a little bit smarter. Not simply robot mowers, but self-driving mowers. Instead of everyone having their own $400 lawn mower in their garage, you could have a lawn mower for every block. You can program it to stay within a defined neighbourhood and it goes to work.

Instead of starting up mowers every Saturday morning, everyone’s lawn is perfectly cut – effortlessly.

Now, take this a bit a further into commercial landscaping. I had a grass cutting project for a 2,500 acre Rifle Range – 300 of those acres had to be cut every single week. The grass could never get above three inches. At the peak of summer the grass would be cut twice a week. Think of the size of that space. If you think everyone cutting their backyard is mad – why is a person cutting 300 acres twice a week?

Mowing is a commodity service; it’s non-disruptive, bulk work. The benefits to business owners are huge: self-driving machines are more reliable and safer. A self-driving lawn mower doesn’t have to worry about being shot when it’s mowing a rifle range.

Roombas will change our house, but self-driving machines are going to change the entire landscape of the industry. Husqvarna and John Deere already have self-driving mowers available for commercial landscaping.

If you’re a business owner you have two ways to get ready:

  1. Invest in self-driving vehicles now to create a differentiated service business

  2. Focus on craftsmanship and move away from the commoditized, bulk work as your primary revenue stream

Roombas are coming. Make sure you’re prepared.