The German machinery manufacturer Claas surprises visitors at Agritechnica 2023 with a prototype autonomous Xerion tractor: the Xerion 12.590 TerraTrac.
The Xerion 12.590 TerraTrac is equipped with three Lidar sensors and has eight cameras around it to detect obstacles. The manufacturer has also installed technology to allow the tractor to automatically follow driving tracks and monitor work processes.
Claas has been working on the project to make its tractors autonomous since 2019. In the future, farmers and contractors can choose from three steering options: driver assistance, co-pilot, or auto-pilot.
Driver Assistance: with an automatic steering system, the driver is supported in driving straight and at the same speed across the field. The driver only has a monitoring function in the tractor cabin during fieldwork. He practically doesn’t have to do anything else.
Co-pilot: the farmer can use the tractor as a normal tractor or have the fieldwork completely pre-planned and automated with the driver as a supervisor. All the information is on the portal. The work speed and the turning speed at the headland can be set in advance. The same applies to the start and end point of the fieldwork. You only need to record the pre-programmed work and press the send button.
Auto-pilot: the driver can use the tractor as a normal tractor or let the fieldwork be done completely autonomously. This works essentially the same as with a co-pilot, except that the driver leaves the tractor. The driver starts the tractor via an app on the smartphone or tablet from the office. He reads ‘work in progress’ when the tractor is working and sees the required time until all the fieldwork is done.
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The technology to let the tractor drive autonomously is almost ready. However, the challenge remains to let the tractor work safely and properly under difficult weather conditions, such as bright sunlight, fog, and frost. The cameras must not get dirty, as this makes it difficult to detect obstacles.
In addition, a tractor is not yet officially allowed to drive autonomously unmanned. That has not yet been approved. The Xerion 12.590 TerraTrac has been developed in collaboration with robot manufacturer Agxeed and has already completed its first test drives in Northern Germany.