EYE ON INNOVATION: Self-Driving Tractor Harvests Interest from Ag Industry

The latest innovation in tractors for the modern farm “features everything but the farmer,” muses a recent headline in a story from Bloomberg News about an autonomous tractor concept from CNH Industrial.

“As Detroit carmakers and Silicon Valley tech giants vie to bring driverless cars to U.S. roads, one of the world’s largest tractor makers is looking to do the same down on the farm,” Bloomberg reports.

This self-driving tractor, a Case IH Magnum prototype model from CNH Industrial, was revealed for the first time last month at a farm equipment show in Iowa.
Photo: Wall Street Journal

At a farm equipment show in Iowa in September, CNH Industrial (Case IH/New Holland) revealed its Autonomous Concept Vehicle, which drew strong interest from those in attendance.

The cabless, self-driving tractor—a Case IH Magnum prototype model—is equipped with cameras, radar, and GPS, enabling farmers to remotely monitor planting and harvesting via computer or tablet from their homes, barns, fields, or pickup trucks. A second concept model, the New Holland T8 NH, includes a cab, so that the tractor can be operated either by a driver or in autonomous mode.

In a press release, CNH says that the self-driving tractor will bring farmers a more efficient use of labor, seamless integration into current farm machinery fleets, and the flexibility to work unmanned around the clock with real-time data monitoring.

Though some farmers at the Iowa show worried the technology would take away jobs, others could see potential value in the autonomous tractors as the ranks of skilled drivers decline, the Wall Street Journal reported.

CNH sources say the tractor is still about three years away from hitting the market, and no prices have been revealed. Top-of-the-line farm machines can cost half a million dollars or more.

Eye on Innovation is a monthly look at new technology and products.

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