Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. (M & M), part of the Mahindra Group, has developed its first-ever driverless tractor slated for availability beginning in early 2018.
Developed at Mahindra Research Valley in Chennai, the technology is designed to enable tractors to perform a variety of farming applications and operate varied implements. The tractor equipped with this technology can be programmed to carry out specific tasks and can also be operated remotely to perform in the field.
“Our tractor R & D has always been at the forefront of pioneering cutting-edge solutions,” Dr. Pawan Goenka, Managing Director, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., said in a release from the September 19 event. “Today’s display of the driverless tractor is another proud moment for us, as it opens up new possibilities in farming. We are happy to dedicate this innovative mechanization for the global farming community, in line with our Farming 3.0 proposition.”
Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd.’s President, Farm Equipment Sector, Rajesh Jejurikar added, “Today the need for farm mechanisation is higher than ever before, due to labour shortage and the need to improve productivity and farm produce yield. Coupled with our ‘DiGiSENSE’ technology that we launched last year, the driverless tractor offers a distinct advantage to the Indian farmer by bringing an unprecedented level of intelligence to the tractor.”
To be deployed across Mahindra tractor platforms in "due course of time," says M & M, the technology will also be deployed across international markets such as the U.S. and Japan. Mahindra plans to offer the driverless tractor technology across its range of tractors from 20 hp to 100 hp (15 kW to 74.6 kW) over a period of time.
The driverless tractor is equipped with several unique features: auto steer, a GPS-based technology that enables a tractor to travel along a straight line; auto-headland turn, enables the tractor to orient itself along adjacent rows for continuous operation without any steering input from the farmer; auto-implement lift, a feature in the tractor that automatically lifts the work tool from the ground at the end of a row and lowers the tool after the tractor has oriented itself for operation at the next row; and skip passing, a feature that enables the tractor to steer to the next row for continuous operation without any intervention of the driver.
In addition, the driverless tractor is also equipped with some unique safety features. Geofence lock prevents the tractor from going outside the boundaries of the farm. The control via tablet user interface enables the farmer to program various inputs needed to farm efficiently as well as offers controls to prevent the tractor veering off from its intended path or desired operation and the farmer can also control the tractor remotely via a tablet. In addition, Remote Engine Start Stop offers the ability to stop the engine and hence, bring the tractor to a complete stop if needed in cases of emergency.
With the deployment of this technology on Mahindra tractors, the farmers can work their fields for long hours without exposing themselves to harsh weather or difficult operating conditions. They can also protect themselves from potential health hazards resulting from operations like insecticide spraying which now can be done without human intervention. It will also ensure better quality and consistency in farming operations, leading to higher productivity and farm produce yields.