Search Images Maps Play YouTube News Gmail Drive More »
Sign in
Screen reader users: click this link for accessible mode. Accessible mode has the same essential features but works better with your reader.

Patents

  1. Advanced Patent Search
Publication numberUS20050217230 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/154,187
Publication dateOct 6, 2005
Filing dateJun 16, 2005
Priority dateNov 21, 2003
Also published asUS6983583, US20050108999, WO2005055699A1
Publication number11154187, 154187, US 2005/0217230 A1, US 2005/217230 A1, US 20050217230 A1, US 20050217230A1, US 2005217230 A1, US 2005217230A1, US-A1-20050217230, US-A1-2005217230, US2005/0217230A1, US2005/217230A1, US20050217230 A1, US20050217230A1, US2005217230 A1, US2005217230A1
InventorsCorey Bucher
Original AssigneeAriens Company
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Lawnmower tilt sensor apparatus and method
US 20050217230 A1
Abstract
A lawnmower comprising a frame, an engine supported by the frame, a mower deck supported by the frame, a rotating cutting blade disposed below the mower deck. A PTO is coupled to the engine and the cutting blade to rotationally drive the cutting blade. A drive system is connected to the frame and coupled to the engine to drive or propel the lawnmower. The lawnmower includes a tilt sensor for sensing a tilt angle representing the orientation of the lawnmower with respect to a horizontal level plane. A signal indicator may provide a notice signal when the tilt angle exceeds a pre-determined check angle. A CPU is electrically coupled between the tilt sensor and signal indicator, and activates the signal indicator in response to the tilt sensor sensing that the lawnmower is tilted beyond the threshold angle to warn the lawnmower operator of a tilt condition.
Images(5)
Previous page
Next page
Claims(19)
1. A riding lawnmower comprising:
a frame;
an engine supported by the frame;
a mower deck supported by the frame;
a rotating cutting blade disposed below the mower deck and selectively rotating under the influence of the engine to cut vegetation under the mower deck;
a drive system connected to the frame for driving the lawnmower;
a tilt sensor for sensing a tilt condition of the lawnmower with respect to horizontal;
a CPU electrically communicating with the tilt sensor to monitor a tilt angle of the lawnmower and creating an output signal in response to the tilt sensor indicating that the lawnmower is tilted beyond a selected angle; and
a signal indicator electrically communicating with the CPU and providing a notice signal to an operator of the lawnmower in response to receiving the output signal from the CPU.
2. The lawnmower of claim 1, wherein the drive system includes first and second drive wheels and first and second control levers for the independent forward and reverse operation of the respective first and second drive wheels.
3. The lawnmower of claim 1, wherein the tilt sensor creates a check signal in response to the tilt angle of the lawnmower exceeding a check angle, and a limit signal in response to the tilt angle of the lawnmower exceeding a limit angle, the limit angle being larger than the check angle; wherein the signal indicator includes a check indicator and a limit indicator different from the check indicator; and wherein the CPU creates a first output signal to activate the check indicator in response to the CPU receiving the check signal and creates a second output signal to activate the limit indicator in response to the CPU receiving the limit signal.
4. The lawnmower of claim 3, wherein the tilt sensor includes a check switch set to close a first electrical circuit and create the check signal in response to the tilt angle of the lawnmower exceeding the check angle, and a limit switch set to close a second electrical circuit and create the limit signal in response to the tilt angle of the lawnmower exceeding the limit angle.
5. The lawnmower of claim 3, further comprising a clock electrically coupled to the CPU, wherein the CPU only creates the first output signal in response to receiving the check signal for at least one continuous second as measured by the clock; and wherein the CPU only creates the second output signal in response receiving the limit signal for at least five continuous seconds as measured by the clock.
6. The lawnmower of claim 1, wherein the CPU, substantially simultaneously with activating the output signal, causes the cutting blade to be disengaged from the engine while maintaining the drive system in control of driving the lawnmower.
7. The lawnmower of claim 1, wherein the tilt sensor includes an inclinometer for measuring the tilt angle of the lawnmower; and wherein the CPU causes the signal indicator to display the tilt angle of the lawnmower as measured by the inclinometer.
8. The lawnmower of claim 1, further comprising a clock electrically coupled to the CPU, wherein the CPU creates the output signal only in response to the tilt sensor sensing that the lawnmower is tilted beyond the selected angle for at least one second as measured by the clock.
9. The lawnmower of claim 8, further comprising a memory device electrically coupled to the CPU, wherein the CPU records in the memory device information received from the clock substantially simultaneously with creation of the output signal.
10. The lawnmower of claim 1, wherein the signal indicator includes a speaker for providing an audible signal.
11. The lawnmower of claim 1, wherein the signal indicator includes a strobe light for providing a visual signal.
12. A riding lawnmower comprising:
a frame;
an engine supported by the frame;
a mower deck supported by the frame;
a rotating cutting blade disposed below the mower deck and selectively rotating under the influence of the engine to cut vegetation under the mower deck;
means for driving the lawnmower;
means for sensing a tilt angle representing the orientation of the lawnmower with respect to a reference plane;
a CPU coupled to the means for sensing, the means for sensing providing a check signal to the CPU when the tilt angle exceeds a pre-determined check angle, the means for sensing providing a limit signal to the CPU when the tilt angle exceeds the limit angle, the limit angle being greater than the check angle; and
a signal indicator providing a notice signal being at least one of an audible signal and a visual signal in response to the CPU receiving the check signal.
13. The lawnmower of claim 12, wherein the means for sensing includes an inclinometer; wherein the signal indicator includes a display screen; and wherein the notice signal includes a visual display on the display screen of the current tilt angle of the lawnmower.
14. The lawnmower of claim 12, wherein the means for sensing includes separate check and limit switches for providing respective check and limit signals when the tilt angle of the lawnmower exceeds preset check and limit angles; wherein the CPU creates first and second output signals in response to receiving the respective check and limit signals from the means for sensing; and wherein the signal indicator generates different notice signals in response to receiving the respective first and second output signals from the CPU.
15. The lawnmower of claim 12, wherein the CPU, substantially simultaneously with activating the signal indicator, causes the cutting blade to be disengaged from the engine while maintaining the means for driving in control of driving the lawnmower.
16. A method of providing a signal for the operating angle of a lawnmower having a frame, an engine supported by the frame, a mower deck supported by the frame, a rotating cutting blade disposed below the mower deck and a PTO connecting the cutting blade and the engine and rotationally driving the cutting blade, and means for driving the lawnmower, the method comprising the acts of:
measuring with a tilt sensor a tilt angle representing the orientation of the lawnmower with respect to a reference plane;
sending a check signal from the tilt sensor to a CPU when the tilt angle exceeds a pre-determined check angle;
sending a limit signal from the tilt sensor to a CPU when the tilt angle exceeds a pre-determined limit angle, the limit angle being greater than the check angle; and
activating a notice signal including at least one of an audible signal and a visual signal when the CPU receives the check signal.
17. The method of claim 16, further comprising the act of logging at least the time of activation of the check and limit signals in a storage device.
18. The method of claim 16, wherein the act of activating the notice signal further comprises activating the notice signal when the CPU continuously receives the check signal for at least about one continuous second.
19. The method of claim 16, further comprising the act of activating an additional notice signal when the CPU receives the limit signal for at least about five continuous seconds.
Description
  • [0001]
    This application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/781,454 filed Feb. 18, 2004, the entire contents of which are incorporated herein by reference, which claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/524,087, filed on Nov. 21, 2003, the entire contents of which is also incorporated herein by reference.
  • FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    This invention relates to a tilt sensor apparatus and method, and more particularly to a tilt sensor apparatus and method for a lawnmower.
  • BACKGROUND
  • [0003]
    Power implements commonly include devices such as utility tractors, lawnmowers, landscaping equipment, trimmers, tillers, snow throwers, or other similar implements, and are used for general outdoor applications such as landscaping, gardening, lawn care, or snow removal. The implement may include at least one mechanism to perform the desired application. If the implement is self-propelled, the implement also includes a drive mechanism to propel the implement. For example, if the implement is a lawnmower, the lawnmower may include a drive mechanism, such as an engine and driven wheels, to propel the lawnmower across a surface, and a cutting blade to cut vegetation.
  • SUMMARY
  • [0004]
    The present invention provides a riding lawnmower comprising a frame, an engine supported by the frame, a mower deck supported by the frame, a drive system connected to the frame for driving the lawnmower, and a rotating cutting blade disposed below the mower deck and selectively rotating under the influence of the engine to cut vegetation under the mower deck. The lawnmower includes a tilt sensor for sensing whether the lawnmower is tilted beyond a threshold angle with respect to horizontal, and a signal indicator for providing to an operator of the lawnmower a signal indicative of the lawnmower being tilted beyond the threshold angle. The lawnmower also includes a central processing unit (“CPU”) electrically coupled between the tilt sensor and signal indicator and activating the signal indicator in response to the tilt sensor sensing that the lawnmower is tilted beyond the threshold angle.
  • [0005]
    In some aspects and in some constructions, the drive system includes two independently controlled drive wheels.
  • [0006]
    In some aspects and in some constructions, The tilt sensor includes a check switch that creates a check signal in response to the tilt angle of the lawnmower exceeding a check angle, and a limit switch that creates a limit signal in response to the tilt angle of the lawnmower exceeding a limit angle. The limit angle may be larger than the check angle. The signal indicator may include a check indicator and a limit indicator different from the check indicator. The CPU may activate the check indicator in response to the check sensor sensing that the tilt angle of the lawnmower exceeds the check angle, and may activate the limit indicator in response to the limit sensor sensing that the tilt angle of the lawnmower exceeds the limit angle. The check switch and limit switch may both be tip switches that close in response to the tilt angle of the lawnmower exceeding the respective check angle and limit angle. Alternatively, or in addition to one or more tip switches, the lawnmower may include an inclinometer that reports to the CPU and/or the lawnmower operator the actual tilt angle of the lawnmower at any time.
  • [0007]
    In some aspects and in some constructions, the lawnmower may include a clock electrically coupled to the CPU. To filter out bumps and temporary rocking of the lawnmower, the CPU may only activate the check and limit indicators in response to the check sensor sensing that the tilt angle of the lawnmower exceeds the respective check and limit angles for certain extended periods of time, such as one to five continuous seconds, as measured by the clock.
  • [0008]
    In some aspects and in some constructions, the CPU may, substantially simultaneously with activating the limit indicator, causes the cutting blade to be disengaged from the engine while maintaining the drive system in control of driving the lawnmower.
  • [0009]
    Other features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art upon review of the following detailed description and drawings.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0010]
    FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of a lawnmower having a tilt sensor embodying aspects of the present invention;
  • [0011]
    FIG. 2 shows a cross-sectional view of a portion of the lawnmower of FIG. 1;
  • [0012]
    FIG. 3 shows a front view of the lawnmower of FIG. 1;
  • [0013]
    FIG. 4 illustrates a system block diagram of a control unit according to aspects of the present invention;
  • [0014]
    FIG. 5 illustrates an operational flow diagram of the system in FIG. 4 according to aspects of the present invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • [0015]
    FIG. 1 illustrates a lawnmower 10 including a frame 14, front wheels 18 and rear wheels 22 supporting the frame 14, a mower deck 26 supported by the frame 14, an engine 28 supported by the frame 14, a cutting blade 30 disposed under the mower deck 26 and driven by the engine 28. As shown in FIG. 1, the cutting blade 30 is normally obscured from view, but is illustrated through a cut-away portion of the mower deck 26. The engine 28 may be enclosed within a housing, as shown in FIG. 1. The lawnmower may also include a seat 34 supported by the frame 14 on which an operator may sit and a foot board 35 supported by the frame 14 for supporting an operator's feet. In the illustrated construction, the two rear wheels 22 may be coupled on a single axle and may both rotate about the same rotational axis 36.
  • [0016]
    In FIG. 1, the lawnmower 10 is a self-propelled riding lawnmower including a drive system connected to the frame 14 and coupled to the engine 28 for driving the lawnmower 10. The drive system includes two independently controlled drive wheels rotationally driven by the engine 28. As shown in FIG. 1, drive wheels of the drive system include the rear wheels 22 of the lawnmower 10. The drive system may include a transmission to direct the power from the engine to drive the drive wheels 22 in a forward or reverse direction.
  • [0017]
    In the illustrated construction, the lawnmower 10 is a belly-mount zero turn radius mower having a pair of control levers 38 for the independent forward and reverse operation of the drive wheels. The lawnmower 10 may be considered a “transteer” lawnmower and each control lever 38 independently controls the corresponding drive wheel 22 on the respective side of the lawnmower 10. The lawnmower 10 utilizes the independent drive wheels 22 to both propel the lawnmower 10 and steer the lawnmower 10. For example, to make a soft right turn, the lawnmower 10 may rotate the left wheel in a forward direction relatively faster than the right wheel. To make a hard right turn, the lawnmower 10 may rotate the left wheel in a forward direction while stopping the right wheel. To make a zero-radius right turn, the lawnmower 10 may rotate the left wheel in a forward direction while rotating the right wheel in a reverse direction. Therefore, in the lawnmower 10 the power transferred to the drive system is also used to steer the lawnmower 10. The invention is not limited to the illustrated lawnmower 10 and may alternatively be embodied in other lawnmowers, such as a front mount mower or even other similar power implements.
  • [0018]
    FIG. 2 illustrates a partial cross-sectional view of the cutting blade 30 disposed below the mower deck 26. A shaft 44 extends through an opening in the mower deck 26, and the mower blade 30 is connected to an end of the shaft 44. As shown in FIG. 2, a Power Take-Off (PTO) 48 is coupled to the end of the shaft 44 opposite the cutting blade 30. The PTO 48 may be mounted to the mower deck 26. The PTO 48 is coupled to the engine and the rotating cutting blade 30 and at least partially transfers rotational power from the engine to the cutting blade 30 to rotationally drive the cutting blade 30. The PTO 48 may be selectively engaged or disengaged to control the transfer of power from the engine to the cutting blade 30 and regulate rotation of the cutting blade 30. In the illustrated construction, the PTO 48 includes an electric clutch and brake. The PTO 48 may include a pulley 52 that may be coupled to the engine with a belt 56 using a belt-and-pulley system. Other similar systems may be used to transfer rotational power from the engine to the PTO 48, such as a gearing system, a chain-and-sprocket system, a direct shaft, or other similar systems. The PTO 48 may regulate the rotational power transferred from the input, or pulley 52, to the output, or shaft 44. The PTO 48 may be controlled electronically to engage or disengage the electric clutch.
  • [0019]
    The lawnmower 10, as shown in FIG. 1, is generally driven on an off-road surface to cut vegetation, such as grass. Due to the off-road usage of the lawnmower 10, the lawnmower 10 may encounter uneven terrain and may be operated on a hill or slope. FIG. 3 illustrates the lawnmower 10 positioned on a slope being tilted from a horizontal plane. The position of the lawnmower 10 may define a tilt angle representing the orientation of the lawnmower 10 with respect to a horizontal plane. The tilt angle is generally zero when the lawnmower 10 is on a flat level horizontal surface. While the lawnmower 10 is designed to be stable, operating the lawnmower 10 on extremely steep slopes beyond the intended range of use may present an unsafe operating condition. The lawnmower 10 may include a control unit 60 that senses the tilt angle and helps reduce the likelihood of an operator unknowingly encountering an unsafe operating condition on a hill or slope. As shown in FIGS. 1 and 3, the control unit 60 may be connected to the lawnmower 10 near the seat 34.
  • [0020]
    FIG. 4 illustrates a circuit diagram representing the control unit 60. The control unit 60 includes a CPU or processing module 70 and a tilt sensor 74 coupled to the CPU 70. The tilt sensor 74 senses a tilt angle representing the tilt of the lawnmower 10 relative to a horizontal plane. For example, the tilt sensor 74 is set to be about zero degrees when the lawnmower 10 is on a horizontal level surface. When the lawnmower 10 is driven on a hill or slope that is not horizontal, the tilt sensor 74 will sense that the lawnmower is no longer horizontal and may determine the tilt angle representing the orientation of the lawnmower 10 with respect to a horizontal level plane. FIG. 3 illustrates an example of the lawnmower 10 on a slope S with the tilt angle A representing the orientation of the lawnmower 10 with respect to the horizontal plane H.
  • [0021]
    In some aspects and in some constructions, the tilt sensors 74 may include tip switches and/or inclinometers to sense the tilt angle and provide an input for the control unit 60. A tip switch is generally an on or off switch and is activated and turned on when the tilt angle reaches a maximum threshold angle or trigger angle. A tip switch may sense whether the tilt angle is greater than or less than a certain angle, depending if the switch is on or off, but does not measure the exact tilt angle. An inclinometer generally measures the tilt angle and provides a numerical value representing the tilt angle. For example, a tip switch may sense that the tilt angle is greater than 10 degrees, and an inclinometer may indicate that the tilt angle is about 13 degrees.
  • [0022]
    As shown in FIG. 4, the tilt sensor 74 has two tip switches including a check switch 80 and a limit switch 84. An example of a suitable tip switch includes the TAD II—Threshold Angle Detector made by Spectron Systems Technology Inc. of Hauppauge, N.Y. The tip switches 80, 84 function as electronic switches that are activated when the tilt of the switch with respect to a horizontal plane reaches a trigger angle. The check and limit switches 80, 84 may be substantially the same, but may be set with different pre-determined threshold or trigger angles. The activation of the tip switch may provide a signal to the CPU 70 that the switch has reached its trigger angle or threshold angle. The tip switches are generally mounted in a horizontal plane and may read the tilt angle along all angle orientations. For example, the tip switches 80, 84 read both the pitch and the roll of the sensor and may determine the overall tilt angle of the sensor based on the pitch and roll values.
  • [0023]
    The tip switches 80, 84 may be set for a range of pre-determined trigger angles or threshold angles. The TAD II—Threshold Angle Detector, described above, provides a threshold range of about 0.2 degrees to 40 degrees. In this disclosure, the trigger angle for the check switch 80 is referenced as the check angle, and the trigger angle for the limit switch 84 is referenced as the limit angle. For example, the check switch 80 will be activated and turned on when the tilt angle reaches the check angle, and the limit switch 84 will be activated and turned on when the tilt angle reaches the limit angle. In the illustrated construction, the check switch 80 may be set with a check angle of about 10 degrees, and the limit switch 84 may be set with a limit angle of about 20 degrees. These values may be selected based on various features of the lawnmower 10 that may influence stability. For example, the wheel base, height, weight, center of gravity, seat location, weight of the operator, and other similar features may influence stability and may be considered when selecting the trigger angles.
  • [0024]
    As shown in FIG. 4, the check switch 80 is on or closed, indicating that the tilt angle exceeds the check angle. The check switch 80 provides a check signal to the CPU 70 indicating that the tilt angle exceeds the check angle, or the threshold angle for the check switch 80. In FIG. 4, the limit switch 84 is off or open, indicating that the tilt angle is below the limit angle. If the tilt angle exceeds the limit angle, the limit switch 84 closes and provide a limit signal to the CPU 70 indicating that the tilt angle exceeds the limit angle. In some aspects and in some constructions, the control unit 60 may include only a single tip switch.
  • [0025]
    FIG. 4 also illustrates an inclinometer 88, or tip angle input device, for measuring the tilt angle and providing an input to the CPU 70 indicating the tilt angle. In some aspects and in some constructions, the tilt sensor 74 may include the inclinometer 88 instead of the tip switches 80, 84. The inclinometer 88 may also be used together with the tip switches 80, 84. The inclinometer 88 measures the tilt angle representing the orientation of the lawnmower 10 with respect to a horizontal level plane and provides the tilt angle data to the CPU 70. The CPU 70 may analyze the tilt angle and determine if the tilt angle exceeds the pre-determined check angle and/or limit angle. An example of a suitable inclinometer includes the Spectrotilt™ II Micro-50 Dual Axis Digital Inclinometer made by Spectron Systems Technology Inc. of Hauppauge, N.Y.
  • [0026]
    The control unit 60 also includes an output device for alerting the operator. If the tilt angle exceeds the check angle and the CPU 70 receives the check signal, the CPU 70 may automatically activate an output device. The output device of the control unit 60 may include a signal indicator or a signal module providing a notice signal including at least one of an audible signal and a visual signal. In the illustrated construction, the signal indicator or signal module may include a speaker 96 for providing an audible signal and/or a strobe light 100 for providing a visual signal. The control unit 60 may use just the speaker 96, just the strobe light 100, both the speaker 96 and the strobe light 100, multiple speakers 96, multiple strobe lights 100, or other various combinations of the speaker 96 and the strobe light 100. FIG. 4 also illustrates a LCD display screen 104 that may provide messages for the operator. The screen may be used to provide the notice signal. The control unit 60 may also include an input keypad permitting user interface with the control unit 60.
  • [0027]
    As shown in FIG. 4, the control unit 60 also includes a current driver 108 coupled to the CPU 70 and the PTO 48. The current driver 108 may be activated by the CPU 70 to engage or disengage the PTO 48. As described above, the PTO 48 controls rotation of the cutting blade 30 (FIG. 2), and is electrically controlled by the CPU 70. The control unit 60 also includes a PTO input switch 112 that senses when the PTO 48 is engaged or disengaged. The PTO input switch 112 is coupled to the CPU 70 and provides an input to the CPU 70 to indicate whether the PTO 48 is engaged or disengaged.
  • [0028]
    FIG. 4 also illustrates a clock 116 and a memory or storage device 120 coupled to the CPU 70. The clock 116 may provide time information to the CPU 70, such as date, time of day, and duration of various events. The memory 120 saves data input from the CPU 70 and may record the occurrence of various events, such as the CPU 70 receiving signals, providing signals, the tilt angle, the activation of the speaker 96 and/or strobe light 100, an input from the PTO input switch 112, the disengagement or engagement of the PTO 48, or other similar events. The memory 120 may also save the information or data received from the clock 116 to indicate time and date information for when a specific event occurred and the duration of the event.
  • [0029]
    FIG. 5 illustrates an operational flow diagram 200 of the control unit 60 and lawnmower 10 outlining one example of the control unit 60 sensing the tilt angle of the lawnmower 10. The control unit 60 begins monitoring the lawnmower 10 when the ignition of the lawnmower 10 is turned on. If the tilt angle is less than a pre-determined check angle and the tip switches 80, 84 are off or open, the PTO 48 may be energized and engaged to rotate the cutting blade 30. At step 204, the PTO input switch 112 senses if the PTO 48 is engaged or disengaged. If the PTO 48 is engaged, the control unit 60 checks if the tilt angle exceeds the check or limit angles. At step 208, the check switch 80 senses if the tilt angle exceeds the check angle. In the illustrated construction, the check angle is about 10 degrees. If the tilt angle does not exceed the check angle, the check switch 80 remains open or off and the control unit 60 continues to check the check switch 80. If the tilt angle does exceed the check angle, the check switch 80 is closed or off and the control unit 60 proceeds to step 212.
  • [0030]
    At step 212, the limit switch 84 senses if the tilt angle exceeds the limit angle. In the illustrated construction, the limit angle is about 20 degrees. If the tilt angle does not exceed the limit angle, the limit switch 84 remains open while the check switch 80 is closed and the control unit 60 proceeds to step 216. In step 216, the control unit 60 checks if the check switch 80 remains continuously closed for a pre-determined period of time. In the illustrated construction, the pre-determined period of time is about 2 continuous seconds. If the check switch 80 remains closed for about 2 continuous seconds, the control unit 60 proceeds to step 220.
  • [0031]
    Checking for the check switch 80 being closed for a continuous period of time provides a buffer and helps filter out false signals due to rough terrain. For example, if the lawnmower 10 briefly hits a bump, hole, or is somehow jarred, the lawnmower 10 may be temporarily tilted and the tilt angle may exceed the check angle due to the shock on the lawnmower 10. If the lawnmower 10 quickly returns to a level position the signal will not continue for the required period of time, and the control unit 60 will not proceed to the next step. The continuous signal check helps prevent false alarms for the operator.
  • [0032]
    At step 220, the signal indicator or signal module provides a notice signal for the operator. As described above, the notice signal may comprise an audible signal from the speaker 96, a visual signal from the strobe light 100, a message on the display screen 104, and/or some other similar signal to be perceived by the operator. The notice signal may be an intermittent signal, such as a beep or flash. If the tilt angle drops below the check angle and the check switch 80 returns to the open or off position for a pre-determined period of time, such as 2 continuous seconds, the control unit 60 returns to step 204 and restarts the sensing process. If the tilt angle remains above the check angle and the check switch 80 remains on, the control unit 60 again performs step 212.
  • [0033]
    As mentioned above, at step 212, the limit switch 84 senses if the tilt angle exceeds the limit angle. If the tilt angle does not exceed the limit angle, the limit switch 84 is open and the control unit returns to step 204. If the tilt angle exceeds the limit angle, the limit switch 84 is closed and the control unit 60 proceeds to step 224. At step 224, the control unit 60 checks if the limit switch 84 remains continuously closed for a pre-determined period of time, such as 1 continuous second. The control unit 60 will return to step 204 if the limit switch 84 does not remain on or closed for 1 continuous second, and will proceed to step 228 if the limit switch 84 does remain on or closed for 1 continuous second. Once again, checking for the limit switch 84 being closed for a continuous period of time provides a buffer and helps filter out false signals due to rough terrain.
  • [0034]
    At step 228, the signal indicator or signal module may provide an additional notice signal for the operator. The additional notice signal may also comprise an audible signal from the speaker 96, a visual signal from the strobe light 100, a message on the display screen 104, or some other similar signal to be perceived by the operator. The additional notice signal may be more conspicuous than the first notice signal to inform the operator that there has been a change in the tilt angle and allow the operator to differentiate between the notice signals. The additional notice signal may be a continuous signal, such as a continuous noise or light, while the first notice signal may be an intermittent signal, such as a flash or beep. The control unit 60 will then proceed to step 232 in which the control unit 60 checks if the limit switch 84 remains continuously closed for an additional pre-determined period of time, such as 5 continuous seconds. Checking the limit switch 84 for a continuous period of time provides the operator with an opportunity to steer the lawnmower 10 to more level terrain and avoid a potentially unsafe operating condition. If the control unit 60 senses that the limit switch 84 if off or open, the control unit 60 returns to step 204. If the control unit 60 senses that the limit switch 84 remains closed for 5 continuous seconds, the control unit 60 proceeds to step 236.
  • [0035]
    At step 236, the control unit 60 provides a signal to the PTO 48 to disengage the PTO 48 and stop rotation of the cutting blade 30. In some aspects and in some constructions, the control unit 60 may not provide an additional indicator signal and may skip step 228 and proceed directly to step 236 to disengage the PTO 48. The control unit 60 may record that the PTO 48 was disengaged and the corresponding date and/or time data in the memory 120 or storage device.
  • [0036]
    When the PTO 48 is disengaged due to the tilt angle exceeding the limit angle, power is cut to the cutting blades 30 to stop rotation, but power is still provided to the drive system. The drive system remains operable to drive the lawnmower 10 when the PTO 48 is disengaged. Maintaining power to the drive system is helpful when the lawnmower 10 is zero-radius turn mower having two independently controlled drive wheels 22. As described above, the drive system uses power to the drive wheels 22 to both propel the lawnmower 10 and steer the lawnmower 10. Maintaining power to the drive system permits the operator to steer the lawnmower 10 off the hill or slope to a more level terrain and decrease the tilt angle. Decreasing the tilt angle helps lessen the likelihood of an operator unknowingly encountering an unsafe operating condition. Therefore, the powered drive system helps the operator avoid a severe hill or slope.
  • [0037]
    The various pre-determined periods of time in which the control unit 60 checks for a continuous signal, such as 1, 2, or 5 seconds, may vary depending on features of the lawnmower 10. As described above, the stability of the lawnmower 10 may be influenced by various factors, such as the wheel base, height, weight, center of gravity, seat location, weight of the operator, and other similar features. The pre-determined period of time may be selected based on these other features that influence stability.
  • [0038]
    In some aspects and in some constructions, the control unit 60 may only include the limit switch 84 and may not have the check switch 80. In this construction, the control unit 60 may bypass steps 208, 216, and 220 and may proceed directly to step 212 to check if the limit switch 84 is on or off. Additionally, the control unit 60 may also bypass steps 228 and 232 and proceed directly to step 236 to disengage the PTO 48. The control unit 60 may also perform other combinations of the steps shown in FIG. 5.
  • [0039]
    The foregoing detailed description describes only a few of the many forms that the present invention can take, and should therefore be taken as illustrative rather than limiting. It is only the claims, including all equivalents that are intended to define the scope of the invention.
Patent Citations
Cited PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US3702051 *Sep 8, 1970Nov 7, 1972John DeinesIndependently operable dual drive wheel riding power mower
US3763484 *Sep 27, 1972Oct 2, 1973Byers WInertia-tilt switch
US3876012 *Jul 23, 1973Apr 8, 1975Excel IndAnti-overturning implement vehicle
US3885112 *Nov 15, 1973May 20, 1975Duncan VinalVehicle carried engine tilt shut-off switch
US3969875 *Apr 18, 1975Jul 20, 1976Mtd Products Inc.Safety grounding circuits
US4038808 *Oct 16, 1975Aug 2, 1977Clemson UniversityTobacco harvester
US4078224 *Jun 25, 1976Mar 7, 1978Mize Lawrence AElectronic roll warning system for vehicles
US4533998 *Jul 6, 1984Aug 6, 1985Reza FalamakControl apparatus for omnidirectional, polar coordinated platform for lawnmower and the like
US4554535 *Jul 20, 1983Nov 19, 1985Floris PierluigiMethod and apparatus for obtaining electrical signals correlated with the position of a mass of mercury in instruments and the like
US4558760 *Jan 20, 1983Dec 17, 1985PrecicultureApparatus for automatically guiding the movement of a vehicle, especially an off-road vehicle
US4661663 *Oct 11, 1985Apr 28, 1987Weinheimer Francis PTilt switch
US4682145 *May 3, 1985Jul 21, 1987Brawner Jr Clarence ATruck level sensing and indicating system
US4707971 *Apr 21, 1986Nov 24, 1987Deweze Manufacturing, Inc.Slope mower
US4714140 *Mar 17, 1986Dec 22, 1987Hatton John HMulti-axis articulated all terrain vehicle
US4779406 *Oct 19, 1987Oct 25, 1988Schroeder Walter JMower with tilting mower deck
US4864805 *Sep 4, 1987Sep 12, 1989The Toro CompanySystem for supporting a working unit
US4988974 *Jul 17, 1989Jan 29, 1991Fury Tommy JWarning and safety system indicating truck trailer tip-over condition
US5123234 *Apr 2, 1991Jun 23, 1992Kubota CorporationWorking vehicle having a mower unit vertically movable relative to a vehicle body
US5176391 *Oct 24, 1991Jan 5, 1993Versa Technologies, Inc.Vehicle leveling system
US5191713 *Dec 2, 1988Mar 9, 1993The Secretary Of State For Defence In Her Britannic Majesty's Government Of The United Kingdom Of Great Britain And Northern IrelandElectronic tilt measuring system
US5204814 *Nov 13, 1990Apr 20, 1993Mobot, Inc.Autonomous lawn mower
US5435117 *Sep 22, 1994Jul 25, 1995Eggena; Dean A.Rotary mower with automatic engine cut off
US5517809 *Apr 14, 1995May 21, 1996Rich; TomConvertible lawn mower
US5532672 *Nov 28, 1994Jul 2, 1996Plazarin; James J.Vehicle level alarm
US5540037 *Apr 7, 1995Jul 30, 1996Ransomes America CorporationControl system for electric drive riding mower
US5666794 *Nov 21, 1995Sep 16, 1997Palm Sales, Inc.Flail mower attachment for a skid steer vehicle
US5711139 *Apr 4, 1996Jan 27, 1998Swanson; Floyd R.Self-leveling hillside mower with remote control
US5742228 *Sep 4, 1996Apr 21, 1998Litan Advanced Instrumentation Ltd.System for preventing tipper truck overturning
US5794422 *Nov 13, 1995Aug 18, 1998Ransomes America CorporationElectric drive mower with motor generator set
US5825284 *Dec 10, 1996Oct 20, 1998Rollover Operations, LlcSystem and method for the detection of vehicle rollover conditions
US5934051 *Feb 6, 1997Aug 10, 1999Textron, Inc.Solid state mow system for electrically powered mower
US5956260 *Aug 9, 1996Sep 21, 1999Zircon CorporationElectronic level displaying inclination having digital and analog displays
US5995895 *Jul 15, 1997Nov 30, 1999Case CorporationControl of vehicular systems in response to anticipated conditions predicted using predetermined geo-referenced maps
US6009358 *Jun 25, 1997Dec 28, 1999Thomas G. XydisProgrammable lawn mower
US6026920 *Jun 2, 1998Feb 22, 2000Edward G. ObedaDynamic seat-moving and leveling device
US6082082 *Feb 14, 1997Jul 4, 2000Textron Inc.Dual motor drive system for electrically powered mower
US6082084 *Aug 4, 1998Jul 4, 2000Ransomes America CorporationElectric riding mower with electric steering system
US6108597 *Mar 1, 1997Aug 22, 2000Gmd-Forschungszentrum Informationstechnik GmbhAutonomous mobile robot system for sensor-based and map-based navigation in pipe networks
US6109009 *Jan 16, 1998Aug 29, 2000Textron Inc.Constant speed control for electric greens mower
US6198992 *Oct 10, 1997Mar 6, 2001Trimble Navigation LimitedOverride for guidance control system
US6339916 *Jul 7, 2000Jan 22, 2002Textron Inc.Method for constant speed control for electric greens mower
US6397133 *Apr 18, 2000May 28, 2002Palmer Safety Systems, LlcVehicle rollover safety system
US6598692 *Oct 16, 2001Jul 29, 2003Self-Guided Systems, L.L.C.Vehicle guidance-maintaining horizontal laser
US6604348 *Feb 6, 2001Aug 12, 2003Deere & CompanyMower with engine-driven blade and electrical propulsion
US6611738 *Nov 20, 2001Aug 26, 2003Bryan J. RuffnerMultifunctional mobile appliance
US6615108 *May 11, 1999Sep 2, 2003F. Robotics Acquisitions Ltd.Area coverage with an autonomous robot
US6735889 *Jan 14, 2003May 18, 2004New Holland North America, Inc.Skid steer loader neutral drift correction method
US6886317 *Jan 25, 2003May 3, 2005Global Neighbor IncorporatedLow energy sickle mower and system using controlled gap thin blade shear process and torque management
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7669873 *Sep 22, 2008Mar 2, 2010Exmark Mfg. Co., Inc.Front rotary cutting deck having center step with front viewport
US7884560Oct 1, 2007Feb 8, 2011Mtd Products IncHybrid electric device
US8076873May 30, 2008Dec 13, 2011Mtd Products IncHybrid outdoor power equipment
US8165759 *Oct 30, 2008Apr 24, 2012Delta Systems, Inc.Tilt sensor assembly and method
US8352116 *Jan 13, 2010Jan 8, 2013Delta Systems, Inc.Tilt and/or acceleration sensing apparatus and method
US8378803 *Nov 25, 2009Feb 19, 2013Craig A. KeiserSafety system for all-terrain vehicles
US8575480Apr 29, 2011Nov 5, 2013Delta Systems, Inc.Connection assembly
US8732896Mar 14, 2008May 27, 2014Mtd Products IncHybrid electric cleaning device
US20080088266 *Oct 1, 2007Apr 17, 2008Lucas Delbert EHybrid electric device
US20100114435 *Oct 30, 2008May 6, 2010Delta Systems, Inc.Tilt sensor assembly and method
US20100191408 *Jan 13, 2010Jul 29, 2010Delta Systems, Inc.Tilt and/or acceleration sensing apparatus and method
CN104010879A *Oct 28, 2011Aug 27, 2014胡斯华纳有限公司Start Fault Indicator System
CN104024048A *Oct 28, 2011Sep 3, 2014胡斯华纳有限公司Indicator system for outdoor power equipment
WO2013062568A1 *Oct 28, 2011May 2, 2013Husqvarna Consumer Outdoor Products N.A., Inc.Steering assembly indicator system for a lawn care or zero-turn vehicle
WO2013062569A1 *Oct 28, 2011May 2, 2013Husqvarna Consumer Outdoor Products N.A., Inc.Indicator system for outdoor power equipment
WO2013100925A1 *Dec 28, 2011Jul 4, 2013Husqvarna Consumer Outdoor Products N.A., Inc.Yard maintenance vehicle route and orientation mapping system
Classifications
U.S. Classification56/10.20R
International ClassificationA01D75/28
Cooperative ClassificationA01D75/28
European ClassificationA01D75/28
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Jul 22, 2005ASAssignment
Owner name: ARIENS COMPANY, WISCONSIN
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:BUCHER, COREY W.;REEL/FRAME:016562/0554
Effective date: 20040210