Just in case raising a healthy crop of sugar cane isn't enough of a challenge, farmers also have to be very careful when carting off their harvests to prevent the trucks destroying surrounding plants and soil. Volvo has been working on a solution to this problem. By having a computer handle the steering, it says it can save farmers big money in lost yields per season.
According to Volvo, Brazilian sugar cane farmers lose around four percent of their goods as heavy trucks roll over younger plants and compact the soil, which would have otherwise formed the following year's crop. This can mean tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue, but Volvo says removing the possibility of human error can help stem the bleeding.
Normally, sugar cane is harvested from the field and dumped into a truck driving along side. This means the truck driver has to be careful to match the speed of the harvester, being careful not to veer onto nearby plants, until it is fully loaded and takes off to empty its load.
Volvo's bright idea is to deploy some of its autonomous driving tech, like that seen in an underground mining truck last year, to make things easier. The system predominantly takes care of the steering, using two gyroscopes to stop the truck from veering more than one inch (25 mm) off course. It also uses GPS to follow a route across the field, and the driver can automate speed with cruise control or accelerate and brake manually.
The company says that this technology has the potential to avoid considerable damage to soil and crops, boosting yields by up to 10 tonnes per hectare per year. It says in the local summer, it will take its prototype into product development phase and conduct further field testing, with commercial availability to follow further down the track.
You can check out the promo video below.