While the country bumpkin farmer stereotype might suggest otherwise, driving a tractor is difficult, requiring precision skills. Now Flemish engineers have announced a new self-driving tractor whose precision rivals that of a human driver. This could mean drastically lower operating costs for farmers, and a step towards automated agriculture.
The tractor, built by Flanders' Mechatronics Technology Centre (FMTC) and the Mechatronics, Biostatistics and Sensors (MeBioS) division of K.U. Leuven's Biosystems Department can automatically adjust its speed and turning radius during its preprogrammed route over a field.
Previous driving systems required manual calibration for hard and soft terrain settings. The new tractor anticipates wheel slippage based on the observed terrain and adjusts its speed and turning rate to compensate. The tractor's driving system "allows for precision down to the centimetre."
The automated tractor could potentially drive down high tractor operator costs. "The job of an operator is really quite complex: he observes the tractor's current position, makes a judgement based on terrain conditions and the route to be followed, and, based on all this, decides the speed and orientation of the tractor," says Erik Hostens, project engineer of FMTC. An automated system that could complete this task would fulfill the need for a highly trained operator, without the continuous high cost.
FMTC and MeBioS will unveil their robot tractor on September 24 and 25 at the Annual International Agriculture and Horticulture Days of Mechanisation, in Oudennarde, Belgium.
Meanwhile, today's Wall Street Journal covers an American partnership between Kinze Manufacturing and Jaybridge Robotics that has also produced a self-driving tractor. The Kinze Autonomous Grain Cart system is designed to work in tandem with a human-operated harvester combine, driving alongside the combine and collecting harvested grain, with a surprisingly sprightly, even playful, gait [see below]. When the grain cart is full, the autonomous tractor hauls the crop to storage, and then returns to find the combine. Kinze and Jaybridge have also developed an autonomous planting system.
GO SKYNET ! ^^
bored? lets go mine the stars... ^^
this is nice. not smart but nice. tractors take one hell of a beating and should last for decade or 2 atleast. we have several that are 30-40 years old. we also have state of the art equipment with one touch driving on the field. one piece is a 750,000 dollar combine that only requires a driver for a safety and manual override. however a software glitch has been known to seriously mess with the machine. most people dont understand how high-tech farmers really are.
Having driven tractors of various sizes, with trailers as well, I don't think it's hard to drive a tractor is so difficult, it may take a little practice. Seems to be a solution that invents its own problem to solve.
I really wonder (I don't know so people that really know can tell us), but is there really a labor problem that needs to be solved? Or is just automate because they can?
"I really wonder (I don't know so people that really know can tell us), but is there really a labor problem that needs to be solved? Or is just automate because they can?"
It's not a labor problem, it's a cost of labor problem.
There are those who yell SKYNET. I do not think a self aware computer will be mans down fall, but our simply attitude to control our environment to be productive. We humans enjoy the benefits of things being produced in an effective and efficient manner. Who can argue with that? I love to buy my food cheap and so man went from putting seeds in the ground by hand to horse and plow to tracker to bigger trackers. Now somebody wants to use robotics and more advance automation to make it more productive and efficient. This is not really a surprise.
But as humanities continue to control the environment to suit its own needs and not live in harmony to the natural earth, this will be the thing that will kill us. One day there will be another black plague on the winds. This black plague will be bacteria, virus, yeast, mold or some other living thing and as the environment of the earth becomes unbalance, this thing will run free and over run us all.
It’s a kind of insanity thing we humans are doing. We all love to be productive. We have such a hard time as we look in the mirror of our lives and see we are killing ourselves. Oh, it may take 100 years to do before this black plague gets us, but I see it as an eventuality.
I see we have 2 choices. We humans learn to live 100% in a pure manufactured environment. Or we change the earth back the way it was several hundred years ago. I do not see likely either event happening.
Have a nice day.
I think we should move to outer space and establish ourselves there in a constant living environment. If we achieve this goal, then we live as close as possible to a 100% manufactured environment.
Second, for those who believe their maybe outer space life and aliens, do not contact them and ask for help. We humans have a deep long history of concurring ourselves. I would think aliens could be of a similar nature on our green blue earth with all its recourses. The aliens may even enjoy us as a highly intelligent pets or slave race too.
The way I see it, this may cut a few jobs, but in the long run, what this will allow is for smaller farmers to buy more tractors before they would otherwise be able to afford to hire the operators, increasing production at lower costs. People are still going to have to process the crops themselves, the tractor operators are a fairly small bunch. And there is the issue that the automated system doesn't get it right the first time, so some farmers may not even use it until it's refined.
As someone on (I believe) Gizmag commented, the same thing could potentially be done better with arrays of laser rangefinders placed around the field, so the tractor could triangulate its position with those and get it 100% correct the first time.
However, any agricultural advance still makes me wonder, when is someone going to get on those farm-in-a-skyscraper things? It's still just about the best idea out there for creating sustainable agriculture as the population expands, whether they're built in the middle of NYC or floated in the middle of the ocean. Heck, putting them in the ocean would probably be a better idea, as you could attach freshwater pools and use the fish-waste-enriched water as a natural fertilizer for the plants.
I think every thing should be automated and eventually will be. Now work. No 9-5. Every human on earth should receive free healthcare, food, shelter, water and energy. Maybe even free transportation. (tubes under ground).
Just wondering, hasn't this technology been out for quite a while now? I could have sworn I've seen tractors that are self driven, the only new thing is hearing about the terrain adjustments, but seeing as I would assume most people would still have an operator behind the wheel, why is this just making it to popsci? Sometimes I think they are just digging around for a story and pump out something new.
Also, I'm going to assume BubbaGump is back in the form of boka, no?
Don't put me in the same sentence as that weirdo.
autonomous is the key word here, the more there is of it the less control we will have, everything is moving in that direction, with AI being developed to run it all, over time we will have given up all control and not have the slightest idea how to regain control if we need to, pandora's box is ungorgiving
Connect the IBM Watson to a robotic knife and you can have autonomous surgery. SCARY! Who do I sue when things go wrong? Watson has no vested interest in doing things correct. But a human surgeon cares and understands responsibility and liability.
I am all for better tools to serve us humans. But I always wish to leave the human in charge for making decisions.
Yes us humans and our desire to be a sloth can be our undoing and as we release control to computerize, robotic and automated machines.
In this article, I feel sorry for all our local farmers. I see millions of acres in the future, covered with robotic machinery all being control from some remote office building. The only thing local will be the repair office.