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Driverless tractors introduced

By Staff | Sep 9, 2016

A FARM PROGRESS SHOW attendee gazes at the other-worldy design of Case IH's Magnum, an autonomous tractor. Case unveiled the concept vehicle on Aug. 30.

BOONE – From opposite corners of the grounds of Central Iowa Expo Case IH and New Holland unveiled their versions of autonomous, or driverless, tractors, attracting attention from farmers the entire three days of the Farm Progress Show.

Case revealed its Magnum tractor on Aug. 29 and New Holland led media around its T8 model on Aug. 30.

Both tractors are concept vehicles. New Holland said if these machines make it to market, it will be at three years away, and they may be designed differently.

Both tractors can be programmed to run with or without a human operator onboard.

The idea, said Rob Zemenchik, Case’s advance farming systems global product marketing manager, is better allocation of labor resources.

NEW HOLLAND'S autonomous T8 tractor was the highlight of the company's show lot at the 2016 Farm Progress Show. It was one of two driverless tractors introduced at the show.

“A farm manager can supervise the activities of multiple machines via a mobile tablet interface,” Zemenchik said, “while he tends to other tasks or even operates another vehicle.

“Multiple autonomous tractors can work as one fleet or simultaneously in multiple sub-fleets assigned to separate fields, each assigned with preprogrammed maps and prescriptions.

“So you could have one tractor pulling a chisel plow followed closely by another one operating a planter. The opportunities for efficiency are substantial.”

Case and New Holland had personnel standing by to conduct anonymous surveys from farmers who showed interest in the machines.

The responses, said one survey-taker ranged from “I’ll take two right now,” to “you’re making the farmer obsolete.”

Case said the vehicles are designed to better address labor resources, not replace anyone.

New Holland said farmers report that it is increasingly more difficult to find workers who can competently operate high-tech farm machinery, and autonomous tractors fit that bill.

A number of regulatory issues still need to be resolved including states allowing autonomous vehicles on public roadways.

No cost estimates were available for either tractor.

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