By Elton Gomes
In 2011, US-based Autonomous Tractor Corporation began work on automation technology for tractors. Seven years later, farmers in India might soon be able to employ driverless tractors. Escorts Ltd, an engineering conglomerate, had announced one of India’s first autonomous tractors on September 6.
Although still in the concept stage, Escorts Ltd’s driverless tractor is slated to get help from partners like Microsoft – that will help in bringing smart devices together by using technologies like the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence. BOSCH will help with future emission readiness, and Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio will help in improving the farm machinery life cycle.
Driverless tractors in India
In September 2017, India’s largest manufacturer of tractors – Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd – launched its first driverless tractor. Mahindra’s tractor can drive automatically with the help of GPS-based technology. It can also lift tools from the ground, recognize the boundaries of a farm, and can be operated remotely via a tablet.
Besides such futuristic vehicles, India also houses the world’s first driverless electric tractor. This was developed by AutoNXT Automation, a start-up based in Mumbai, which is run by Kaustubh Dhonde, an electronics engineer.
Dhonde is of the opinion that for those farmers with a farm lesser than five acres, it makes more sense to rent a tractor rather than buying one. Dhonde said that his invention does not use traditional self-driving technology, but it depends on cameras and software to make its way around a farm and perform various activities, Live Mint reported.
How will technology change farming
Driverless technology is slowly making in-road in the agricultural sector. According to CNBC, the rapid progress in self-driving technology for automobiles could help in lowering the cost of developing autonomous machinery for farming. Technology required to shift to driverless cars cost about $2,700 per vehicle, according to Goldman Sachs. However, in agriculture, autonomous driving equipment would only require technology where there is a slightly higher complexity, but “not disproportionately higher,” said Jerry Revich, an analyst at Goldman Sachs.
Farming is all set to be revolutionized by self-driving tractor and robots that can perform work done by humans. Experts indicate that big tractors could be replaced with self-propelled autonomous implements, such as sprayers in row crops, orchards, and vineyards or with other robotic equipment for other specific tasks on the farm.
More importantly, the autonomous driving trend won’t just help large farming machinery. Smaller tractors and robots will be visible on some farms in the future. Matt Rushing, an executive an AGCO which is a farming machinery manufacturer, said, “You’ll start to see more and more autonomous vehicles, especially smaller vehicles in farming, replacing some of the manual work that we would have seen being done by humans,” as per the CNBC report.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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