IT IS something only seen in science fiction films from the 1960s.

But now robotic lawnmowers are set to be introduced across the county as part of a massive trial.

Hampshire County Council bosses want to use the machines to manage the grass areas of the region’s 5,500 miles of road, and 2,000 miles of roadside verges.

The machines will be guided using “smart technology” to easily navigate around obstacles and pre-set boundaries. It will also be operated by a member of the council’s maintenance team.

This, council chiefs say, will mean reduced disruption for road users as less traffic management – such as cones – will be needed, as operators will be standing further away from the roadways – making it safer than conventional cutting methods.

However, the council were unable to confirm how many machines will be used or how much it is costing.

Grass cutting on rural roads is carried out once a year by the authority.

Environment and transport boss, councillor Rob Humby, said: “Grass cutting is an important part of our annual highways maintenance programme as good visibility is vital for all those using the road to maintain clear lines of sight.

“We are always looking at how we can harness technology to improve what we do – whether it’s a more cost effective, quicker, or more efficient way to carry out highways maintenance. In this case, using a robotic grass cutter means that less cones and other traffic management measures are needed on the roads, so disruption to traffic should be minimised.”

The machines, which are now starting to be used, have been supplied by Skanska – the company appointed to deliver highways maintenance services in the county over the next seven years.

Business director Matthew Riches said: “The robotic cutters use smart technology to easily navigate around obstacles and pre-set boundaries. This means they can be used in areas where traffic travels at higher speeds and where it would be more dangerous for our workers to operate, keeping them safer.”

The council also said that it takes extra care to manage more than 200 “Roadside Verges of Ecological Importance”. Verge cutting is timed to manage these areas, which are home to rare flower species.

Cllr Humby added: “As I’m sure gardeners across Hampshire are well aware, the combination of warm and wet weather we’ve had recently has resulted in rapid growth.

“Hampshire Highways teams are out around the county ensuring that roadside verges are cut back to improve visibility and safety for everyone who uses the roads.”