India’s leading tractor maker has joined the race to introduce commercial driverless tractors by demonstrating one of its 2-wheel-drive models equipped with GNSS guidance, obstacle detection, geofence containment and automatic hitch lift and lower.
Dr Pawan Goenka with Mahindra's new driverless tractor.
Mahindra & Mahindra, which claims to produce more tractors than any other manufacturer worldwide and is the Indian market leader, says it will phase in the autonomous system for its 20-100hp range from early next year and offer it in international markets such as the US and Japan in due course.
Although farmers in India use simple, relatively low-cost (by Western terms) power units to cultivate the land and harvest crops, Mahindra promotes this high-technology approach as a means of reducing operators’ exposure to harsh weather and health hazards – when crop spraying, for example – while also talking up potential for increasing productivity.
The development is also a signal to export markets – such as the United States, where Mahindra has a strong following for its utility tractors among livestock and part-time 'sundowner' farmers – that it is up to speed with the latest technology.
Developed at Mahindra Research Valley in Chennai, the driverless tractor has the company’s own DiGi Sense telematics system, which contributes features such as vehicle tracking and geofencing to the automation package.
Auto headland turn with pass skipping if appropriate is available from the GNSS guidance, and the vehicle can be operated remotely through a tablet computer interface that is also used for inputting the route and operational setup.