Driverless Snow Ploughing. No, Really

Driverless cars are proving a difficult sell at the moment. Not surprising given that one recently caused a fatal accident.

But driverless snowploughs? Now you’re talking.

Given how Scandinavia has a much healthier attitude towards snow, as in, ‘it snows, so we deal with it without bringing the country to a halt’, it’s appropriate that a Swedish company and a Norwegian one have got together to create driverless snowploughs.

These won’t be used on public roads but on clearing airport runways. And if the first trial is anything to go by, they’ll be pretty good at it too. During the trial, which took place at the Fagernes Airport in Leirin, Norway – which is located 200 kms north of Oslo so we’re guessing it gets lots of snow – the companies hitched up two vehicles which between them were able to clear an area of snow measuring 357,000 square meters every hour.

(There’s a pretty cool video uploaded on to YouTube which shows the vehicles in action. Click here to watch it).

Clearly, the introduction of driverless snowploughs is good news for Scandinavian air passengers – although less good news for Scandinavian snow plough drivers who presumably will find them themselves ‘assigned to other tasks’.

But even they must have seen the writing on the wall (or in the snow) as countries like Norway and Sweden, where heavy snowfall is expected, also have problems reconciling accurate staffing levels with accurate weather predictions. Runways in these countries must be completely clear of snow for aircraft to take off and land meaning having drivers on permanent standby – an expensive option and an easy line item for the bean counters to want to reduce.

We were struck by a comment by one of the  project leaders who explained the benefits of this new system as including,” The precision with which the snow ploughs operate, and the fact that they can clear snow in formation”.

Formation snow ploughing. Will we ever see it at Heathrow we wonder?

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