Autonomous tractors are driverless tractors which use modern technology to provide higher efficiency and minimize human intervention. Autonomous vehicles are touted as the next big thing in the farm equipment industry. They come with many benefits such as safety, fuel efficiency, sharing, and many others. The very concept of autonomous tractors is designed to revolutionize the agricultural industry.
The most advantageous aspect of the autonomous tractor would be enhanced productivity of the machines. Doing more in less time and fuel. The initial cost would be high compared to the diesel models but over a period, the profitability that would be gained from an autonomous tractor is unmatched.
History of Autonomous Tractors
Autonomous tractors are no longer just an idea as companies like Autonomous Tractor Corporation and John Deere have been successfully developing and improving their products over time.
Autonomous Tractor Corporation was one of the first companies to foray into building an autonomous tractor which was successful by the year 2012. SPIRIT is the name of their first model and it is built to follow the main tractor. The company is also trying to build a model which can move independently without being ‘tethered’ to a lead tractor.
Companies like Fendt and Case IH are also in the process of developing their own line of autonomous tractors.
Key Players in the Market
India being one of the largest markets for agricultural products and machinery, has also demonstrated traction in the field of autonomous tractors. Market leaders like Mahindra & Mahindra, John Deere, and Escorts have taken steps to develop and launch autonomous tractors.
John Deere is the pioneer in autonomous tractors and one of the first organizations that started their project in 2008. The specialty in their vehicle is that it would get the instructions from the GPS system and would do its work without human intervention.
Mahindra & Mahindra – Recently the company has launched their first line of driverless tractors which gets the guidance from its GPS system and can also be guided through handheld devices like a tablet or a phone. Apart from the normal field chores, it can also lift loads from the ground.
Escorts – is getting support from the top technology company - Microsoft and is developing their driverless tractor with modern technology tools like AI and IoT.
Case IH – This company has a huge market in the western hemisphere and has advanced a lot towards building an autonomous tractor platform to initiate discussions with the farmers to make them understand about the benefits of them.
The New Holland - Autonomous tractor – The parent company is CNH Industrial who owns Case IH as well. Although the name has Holland in it, it is headquartered in Italy. The company is working towards manufacturing autonomous tractors which can help farmers in vineyards.
There is a startup named AutoNXT which has developed the first of its kind electric tractor – Hulk. The built-in software with support from mounted cameras would enable it to run driverless.
Driverless tractors are far away from being widely used. There are many issues related to safety concerns, legal challenges, and business case which remain to be overcome. The technology has been available for a long time and is getting better each day. As labour shortage worsens, the business case for autonomous tractors will improve. For farmers, it will be one less person to find and one less person to pay. For now, Autonomous tractors remain the next big thing in agriculture.