FARMERS might soon wave good by to all-night shifts on the tractor thanks to driverless tractors nearing reality. Case IH unveiled an autonomous concept vehicle yesterday at the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa, US.
The cabless Case IH row crop tractor – based on an existing Case IH Magnum tractor with re-imagined styling – can operate autonomously with a wide range of field implements.
The vehicle was built for a fully interactive interface to allow for remote monitoring of pre-programmed operations. The on-board system automatically accounts for implement widths and plots the most efficient paths depending on the terrain, obstructions and other machines in use in the same field. The remote operator can supervise and adjust pathways via a desktop computer or portable tablet interface. Through the use of radar, lidar and on-board video cameras, the vehicle can sense stationary or moving obstacles in its path and will stop on its own until the operator, notified by audio and visual alerts, assigns a new path.
The vehicle will also stop immediately if a global positioning system signal or position data is lost, or if the manual stop button is pushed. Machine tasks can also be modified in real time via remote interface or automatic weather warnings.
AFS global product marketing manager Rob Zemenchik explained that autonomous tractor operation brings together the latest in guidance, telemetry, data sharing, and agronomic management to offer farm managers more control, monitoring capabilities and cost savings.
“A farm manager can supervise the activities of multiple machines via a mobile tablet interface while he tends to other tasks or even operates another vehicle,” said Zemenchik.
“Multiple autonomous tractors can work as one fleet or simultaneously in multiple sub-fleets assigned to separate fields, each assigned with pre-programmed maps and prescriptions. So you could have one tractor pulling a chisel plow followed closely by another one operating a planter. The opportunities for efficiency are substantial.”
Although the autonomous vehicle is presently considered only as a concept tractor, Zemenchik said the technology could function just as well in a standard cabbed tractor where it could use real-time weather and satellite data to optimally apply crop inputs such as nitrogen, herbicides, or fungicides.
The concept was created to validate the technology and to collect customer feedback regarding their interest and need for future autonomous products for their operations.
“These enhancements really become interesting for our customers when weather comes into play,” said Zemenchik.
“Because if it starts to rain in one field, the tractor will automatically stop what it’s doing and head over to another field that is dry to work on that provided it can access that field via private roads.”
Prior to the concept’s unveiling, company executives presented a video demonstration of the tractor tilling and planting on land in the Southeastern United States earlier this summer.
CNH Industrial collaborated with its long-standing technology provider Autonomous Solutions Incorporated, ASI, a Utah-based company that is the industry leader in off-road autonomous solutions, in the development of this concept autonomous technology.