ERIN – The Town of Erin has a new employee on the payroll for their yearly sidewalk inspection but they look different than expected.
The town has partnered with tech start-up Top Hat Robotics to deploy a robot to inspect local sidewalks.
Top Hat Robotics is a new Kitchener-Waterloo based company that makes robots for sidewalk work-related uses.
This new robot is not fully-autonomous. A Top Hat Robotics staff member accompanies the robot.
When inspecting the sidewalk, the robot looks for cracks, step hazards and dips where ponding could happen.
Nick Colucci, Erin’s director of infrastructure, explained that what this machine can do is beyond the usual visual sidewalk inspection by town staff.
“It does an inspection, but it also gathers data,” Colucci said. “Exact location of repairs and the exact location of the sidewalk which will give us GIS information for our sidewalks, which we don’t currently have.”
He said this is a lot more cost effective than having town staff walking the sidewalks doing inspections.
“This is a trial basis, so our fee this year is under $1,000 for the whole project,” Colucci said.
A common objection to automating processes is the loss of human jobs, but Colucci said this will do the opposite.
“It wouldn’t take any jobs away, it would actually create additional work,” Colucci said. “We’re going to have a better idea where the deficiencies are and of course we’re going to have to repair them.”
Colucci said Top Hat Robotics will provide a report and data which he will bring to council with a budget for the repairs in the near future.
Colucci explained the company is looking to expand on this project and build a fully autonomous robot that can do full maintenance of sidewalks including winter plowing and salting.