Aftermarket kit gives existing tractors an autonomous mode
Although autonomous tractors may be well-suited to some applications, there are other times when a human driver is still required. That's where a new kit comes in, as it allows existing tractors to be switched between autonomous and manual modes.
Developed by Tel Aviv-based Blue White Robotics, the autonomous tractor kit can reportedly be installed on any third-party conventional tractor within one day.
Along with a GPS module, the setup also incorporates LiDAR units and optical cameras for detection and avoidance of obstacles; a pressure-sensitive front bumper that causes the tractor to stop if it manages to run into something anyways; and four emergency cutoff switches located around the outside of the chassis, which bystanders can flip to stop the vehicle.
Utilizing an accompanying computer program, users start by defining the tractor's area of operation on a map. The kit then utilizes that data to set up its geofencing system, which keeps the vehicle from wandering beyond those boundaries. As the tractor moves through the fields, its AI system allows it to identify rows of plants, and to turn around at the end of each row so it can head down the next one.
Importantly, though, for situations where the human touch works best, flipping a switch on the kit returns the tractor to full manual control.
The system is reportedly already being trialed by "major commercial growers" in orchards and vineyards along the US West Coast, where it's being used for tasks such as spraying, mowing and disking. You can see it in action, in the video below.
Source: Blue White Robotics