Robotic lawn mowers might be trimming the grass at the nearest golf course.

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Technological Advances in Mowing

Modern rotary lawn mowers have made several advances over their predecessors, especially in safety features.

Today's mowers come with a blade brake control on the handlebar that stops the blade if the operator releases the control, or a kill switch that stops the motor entirely. They also come with a foot shield at the rear of the mower to prevent loose objects from being discharged and to prevent feet or other objects from entering the blade deck. Riding lawn mowers come with safety features that cut the motor if it tips over, and commercial models now routinely come with roll bars to prevent the operator from being pinned or crushed.

Riding lawn mowers also come with a wide variety of luxury options, including automatic transmissions, adjustable seats, cruise control, stereos and even beverage cup holders.

Many riding mowers can also tow attachments that allow them to plow snow, till the earth, spread fertilizer and do other duties that turn them into multipurpose machines.

Walk-behind mowers aren't without their options, though. Large rear wheels in newer models help turn the mower more easily, and push-button electric starters eliminate the tedious task of pulling a recoil line to get the mower going.

But the newest advance in lawn mowers is not an addition, but a subtraction. A new crop of lawn mowers doesn't need an operator, because it operates itself. Robotic lawn mowers can mow your lawn while you're sipping a cool drink on your hammock. Most robot lawn mowers run on cordless rechargeable batteries, and some are charged by solar power. So you can feel good about the environment while you're sipping that drink, too.

Many of the elements of future lawn care are already here today, and they're making it easier, greener and more efficient to keep the grass neat and trim. Robots are already available to cut your yard for you, but in the future larger, more powerful robotic lawn mowers could cut large fields and golf courses and otherwise be used for commercial landscaping.

Those lawn mowers could run on electricity powered by the sun, if the technology improves. Or they could run on biodiesel or hydrogen fuel cell technology already under development.

And researchers are always looking for ways to cut the grass more effectively, from improved mulching techniques to self-sharpening blades. For lots more information on lawn mowers and home improvement technology, see the links on the next page.