Automotive

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

Self-driving tractors promise ...
Self-driving tractors can work day and night, through rain, hail and shine
Self-driving tractors can work day and night, through rain, hail and shine
View 16 Images
The self-driving truck concept loses the cabin
1/16
The self-driving truck concept loses the cabin
Self-driving tractors can work day and night, through rain, hail and shine
2/16
Self-driving tractors can work day and night, through rain, hail and shine
The concept is controlled by remote software, and can run on predetermined paths
3/16
The concept is controlled by remote software, and can run on predetermined paths
The tractor is designed to validate the technology being integrated into future tractors
4/16
The tractor is designed to validate the technology being integrated into future tractors
The system will automatically stop when it detects an obstacle 
5/16
The system will automatically stop when it detects an obstacle 
The tractor uses radar, LiDar and cameras to detect obstacles
6/16
The tractor uses radar, LiDar and cameras to detect obstacles
The tractor can be hooked up with the usual range of attachments 
7/16
The tractor can be hooked up with the usual range of attachments 
The tractor looks meaner than the average farm equipment 
8/16
The tractor looks meaner than the average farm equipment 
The mapping software that comes with the autonomous tractors 
9/16
The mapping software that comes with the autonomous tractors 
Farmers are able to work from anywhere
10/16
Farmers are able to work from anywhere
The tractor can be used to seed and harvest
11/16
The tractor can be used to seed and harvest
Self-driving tractors work at night, during the day, and anything in between
12/16
Self-driving tractors work at night, during the day, and anything in between
The tractor takes the size of its trailer into account when plotting a path around a field
13/16
The tractor takes the size of its trailer into account when plotting a path around a field
The tractor in action
14/16
The tractor in action
This tractor can map the ideal path around a field 
15/16
This tractor can map the ideal path around a field 
The NH Drive tractor
16/16
The NH Drive tractor
View gallery - 16 images

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

The NH Drive tractor
The NH Drive tractor

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.

The mapping software that comes with the autonomous tractors 
The mapping software that comes with the autonomous tractors 

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

The system will automatically stop when it detects an obstacle 
The system will automatically stop when it detects an obstacle 

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.

Source: CNH Industrial

The CNH Industrial Autonomous Tractor Concept (Short Version)

View gallery - 16 images
16 comments
Growling_M.A.D+Dirty
Now all they have to do is ask how many farmers that do not want to drive tractors. Then they will have a rough estimate of how large the self driving tractor market is. It is one thing for geeks coming up with technology and another to force their clients to adopt to their visions. Or they will just have to buy farmland themselves and make their ideas come true. They can also do automatic cultivation if they buy pigs, cows and horses. These take care of the plants and then we can eat the animals instead of having them locked up in stables. Just like it was intended. When they get bored by their spare time activities, like skiing, skydiving and other things when the manual work has been automated, then can just automate those activities to. Robots doing skiing for the geeks, so that they do not have to do it. Or parkour robots with a "new moves algorithm" (TM) which innovates mid air. Automatic programming languages with DNA-scripting functions adapt the whole ecosystem in real time. Just like in real life. Imagine.
mhpr262
That robot tractor looks really, really angry.
Joe Blough
Farming has been an early adopter of technology. GPS was used decades ago to map fields and then apply fertilizer in amounts that varied by location in a field. Combines are largely automated. Unlike the chaotic world of roads, fields don't have other traffic, few obstacles and self driving farm equipment vehicles are highly feasible and sensible. Go farmers.
MayoTech
Interesting time lag to this article since this has been happening in Ag for years. https://www.therobotreport.com/news/as-google-cars-roll-out-deere-reminds-us-that-they-have-thousands-of-self-d
JohnPierce
Growling_M.A.D: the corporate mega farmer who won't have to hire tractor operators will be the big market for this. Think A.D.M. harvesting a half million acres of corn, the tractor can run 24/7 without any overtime or benefits.
ddavel544
When the world becomes fully automated, in every industrial facet, how will humans work for pay? Or will that aspect of our economy become outmoded, to the point we will not need to work for a living?
EE_Tim
Self driving tractors are nothing new. John Deere has been using equipment to allow tractors drive themselves for well over a decade. They use highly accurate GPS, with ground point references, to insure that the planted rows are accurate to within a fraction of an inch. The equipment can be used in every aspect of farming; plowing, planting, prescription application (fertilizer, weed control, and insecticide), harvesting, etc. I know, because I got to work on the GreenStar2 2600, the GreenStar2 1800, and the GreenStar3 2630 back in 2009 - 2011.
Deane
So now we have self-driving cars and autonomous tractors. When is someone going to come out with a reasonably priced lawn mower that can do the job without burying wires in your yard or putting up reflectors or barriers? THAT will be an instant hit. Hardly anyone likes the boring job of mowing their lawn.
F. Tuijn
Agricultural machines have over the years become larger to increase the labour productivity of the operator despite the fact that large machines will damage the soil structure. Unmanned machines can be made much smaller, can be used in much smaller fields. You can then make your huge field into a chequer board with perhaps half a dozen or more different crops. This makes crop rotation much easier. Crops have different diseases that will find it difficult to spread. This will allow you to save on pesticides. You will have a few types of machines each with its set of tools for its several tasks and with one of each in reserve to take care of a failure. Those machines will be produced in much larger numbers than current machines and so will be cheaper for the same work capacity. In other words: think again.
Nelson
We do not need no stinking humans!