Driverless vehicles are headed off road.
Not for recreation though. This is all about work, because these driverless vehicles are farm tractors.
Yes, the driverless tractor is coming to a furrow near you. Mahindra is bringing the first version to market next year – starting in India, and then available worldwide.
Like the driverless car, in the beginning the farmer will be the “driver”, but not driving. Next stage will be the remote-operated tractor; and in the end, the tractor will be programmed to head out on its own in the morning, and come back when the day’s work is done.
There is plenty of work on a farm that requires a farmer’s touch. But driving a tractor back and forth across a field, and another field, and another – doesn’t have to be in that category. The driverless tractor just frees up the farmer for all the other work that nobody but she, or he, can do.
As you’d expect with any driverless vehicle, Mahindra’s tractor uses GPS to steer itself – but being a tractor, it faces some challenges you don’t see much on your typical street. So this tractor can reach the end of a crop row, turn, and head precisely back down the next row – row after row after row. And when it makes each turn, this tractor can lift the plow or harrow or whatever tool it is using, make the turn and drop it back down in the next row.
And, if you’re envisioning a rogue tractor, something out of a Stephen King novel – not to worry. These tractors feature a geofence lock, so they can’t go beyond the boundaries of the farm, and a remote off switch, so a farmer can stop the engine and the tractor, should there be an emergency.