Tech guru Jones announces robot lawnmower startup

April 17, 2007

In October, 2005, Scott Jones’ robot-driven Jeep Rubicon crashed at the start of its first major competition.

But the setback didn’t deter the entrepreneur. Jones announced today that he has formed a Camel-based company, Precise Path Robotics Inc., to commercialize his automatic pilot technology for use mowing grass on golf courses.

Eventually, the company’s computerized lawnmower could be used on sports fields, corporate campuses and residential yards.

Best-known as the man who helped invent voice mail, Jones has created a series of high-tech firms. His most recent is ChaCha Search Inc., a human-assisted Internet search-engine firm formed last year. Before that, Jones spent much of 2004 and 2005 organizing Indy Robot Racing, an all-volunteer team of about 100 university students and information technology experts.

He hoped the Jeep designed by Indy Robot Racing would win the federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Grand Challenge. The competition offered a $2 million prize for the first team to develop a vehicle capable of autonomously navigating 131.6 miles of the Mojave Desert in fewer than 10 hours.

However, a software glitch caused the Jeep to crash, and a team from Stanford University won the race. But Jones pledged at the time to press ahead with his goal of creating fully-robotic vehicles.

He said he could envision a future where robot drones would drive military supply trucks through dangerous war zones, while their counterparts pilot tractors across farm fields. He immediately formed a company called IndyRobotics LLC to explore the commercial potential of robotic navigation.

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