They're almost cute, these little seatless quadbikes, and they can be programmed to autonomously perform a bunch of handy tasks outdoors. Honda has been testing prototypes in search and rescue, firefighting, construction, agriculture, landscaping and snow removal applications, and is looking for partners to come on board to further the technology.
The rugged little autonomous work vehicle (AWV) platform is basically a Honda agricultural 4WD quad bike with the top half removed and replaced with a bunch of sensors, self driving equipment and whatever else might be required for the specific task laid out for it.
Its rail system lets you mount all sorts of accessories and plug-ins, and its fairly rudimentary autonomous capabilities let you set it to "follow me," "pattern" or "A to B" modes, which make it useful across a fairly broad range of applications.
Honda's been testing it with a mower towed behind it, keeping weeds and grass down at a 178-acre (72 ha) solar plant in North Carolina. Meanwhile, in Colorado, the fire department has had them following firefighters around, carrying heavy gear as they work their way through steep and difficult terrain on their way to control forest fires.
In California, they've been undergoing agricultural testing, autonomously spraying crops for weed and pest control without people being exposed to the chemicals, and shuttling back and forth carrying harvested crops from the field to the packing operation.
They're not ready to go yet; Honda is taking the vehicle (currently codenamed 3E-D18) to CES, where they were first launched last year. The company hopes to meet partners that can help develop the technology further, or collaborate to build autonomous attachments to broaden its utility.
Check out the vehicle at work in the video below.