Having technology which can run itself makes production quicker and easier in all areas, including farming. The autonomous tractor has recently been displayed by Case IH, and is designed with safety features that make it possible for the vehicle to be operated remotely. The world’s population is constantly increasing and with it the need for more food. The autonomous tractor would be able to maximise the efficiency of fields and growing produce, by working 24 hours per day and in adverse weather conditions.
Case IH has played a major role in the development of farming with their introduction of a form of GPS, in the 1990s, which showed the amount of produce that each field yielded. This system has been improved with technological advancements, and is still used by farmers to show where planting adjustments need to be made.
More recently, self-steering systems have been included in farming vehicles to decrease the amount of overlapping and missing areas that occurs during planting crops. This minimizes wastage and workload, yet still requires qualified drivers to operate. Finding them is becoming more difficult, as the hours can be long and tedious. Autonomous machines can be used alongside existing ones, significantly decreasing the amount of labor needed to run a farm.
As they would be remotely controlled, the tractors have been designed without a cab. The vehicles are also able to warn operators of possible threats, by stopping when there is an item that might damage them in the vicinity. The operator is alerted, and will then decide whether it should continue or change paths. The tractors are programmable, and can make their way to and from different fields. Their progress can be viewed through the mapping system, controlled by an app, or remotely accessed via ‘tractor view’ through its feed.
Developers are working on ways that the vehicles will be able to interpret external data, such as weather conditions, and use it to decide what is the best time to plant and reap crops, independent of human input. This attention to detail would save on wastage, as it would control the planting of the crops as well as weeding between rows to reduce the use of pesticides.
The tractor’s designers are currently working with farmers to test the technology. They are demonstrating the way in which its use will affect all aspects of the business, including labour and farm management. Other autonomous features will be integrated into current farm vehicles, and these can be adapted for use on small as well as large-scale farms. As the technology becomes more readily available, costs are expected to decrease and more areas will be able to use it for widespread food production. The current expectation is that this will help to decrease hunger worldwide.