Self-driving tractors promise to get themselves to work, plow without complaint

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Self-driving tractors can work day and night, through rain, hail and shine

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There's been a lot of focus on consumer self-driving technology recently, but autonomy promises to shake things up in the agricultural world too. CNH Industrial's latest concepts aim to demonstrate how self-driving tractors can deliver faster, more precise results than their human controlled counterparts.

New Holland NH Drive Concept

It might look like your run-of-the-mill T8 Blue Power tractor, but the NH Drive is packing some clever self-driving hardware under its skin.

Thanks to its clever inbuilt software and the accompanying apps, farmers are able to kick back and watch as the tractor drives itself to a field, starts working and then returns itself to base afterwards. Okay, so it's not quite that simple: the (private) paths between the tractor's shed and the field need to be mapped, for one.

Once it arrives at the field, inbuilt software is able to consider its shape and size, along with the size of the implement attached to the back of the trailer, and plot the most efficient course around it. If the radar, LiDar or cameras detect an obstacle, the farmer is notified and asked to decide how the tractor should handle the obstruction.

That's not quite as easy as, say, just swerving around it, but when you're towing a massive trailer and trying to run in perfectly mapped straight lines, swerving isn't necessarily an option.

Farmers are able to control and monitor the NH Drive through the accompanying desktop and mobile software. There's a path-plotting screen and four live camera views, as well as data about engine speed and fuel levels. The system is also able to autonomously seed, and farmers are able to monitor and tweak a huge range of parameters surrounding seeding.

It's worth bearing in mind, self steering systems already exist. Keeping a tractor tracking straight along rough ground is actually quite difficult, as is following the same predetermined path perfectly. GPS farming systems already do this to a certain extent, although they lack the level of autonomy you get in the NH Drive concept.

Case IH Concept Vehicle

Even though it's loaded with clever self-driving tech, the NH Drive looks overwhelmingly normal. That doesn't hold true for the Case IH Concept, which drops the cabin to envision what the future of self-driving tractors might look like.

Like the other autonomous NH Drive, this was designed to be remotely monitored and programmed. It also uses the same combination of sensors to detect obstacles and warn farmers, asking them to plot the ideal course around it without tearing up the field.

"In many parts of the world, finding skilled labor during peak use seasons is a constant challenge for our customers," says Case IH Brand President Andreas Klauser.

"While we offer auto-steering and telematics on our equipment today for remote management of farm machinery and employees, this autonomous tractor concept demonstrates how our customers and their employees could remotely monitor and control machines directly."

Check the tractors out in action below.

View gallery - 16 images

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