A glimpse into the future of autonomous, or driverless, tractors was given to growers by global manufacturer New Holland at this year’s Henty Machinery Field Days.
A Genesis T8 Smarttrax, minus the autonomous software technology, was used to illustrate to field days visitors what an autonomous tractor of the future may look like.
New Holland national product manager Tony Peters said a single autonomous tractor had been trialled on-farm in the US but it remained entirely at the concept stage in Australia.
“Autonomy is certainly in its infancy in this country and globally,’’ Mr Peters said.
“It will be a matter of watch this space as there is a rapid development of products from all brands.’’
Mr Peters said New Holland had chosen to present the concept with a traditional cab to allow for an operator at any time.
He said there were many global hurdles to overcome before the technology would be commercially available in Australia.
Mr Peters said eventually the concept would have great applications in the broadacre and horticultural industries.
The concept tractor is equipped with a radar unit on the front, a minimum of four cameras, GPS antenna and mobile phone connection.
“One of the biggest hurdles we will have in Australia is mobile phone coverage and it will be a key part of autonomous vehicles,’’ Mr Peters said.
“It is critical for the person operating that tractor from his lounge room to have good connectivity to make it work.’’
Mr Peters said the commercial availability of a New Holland autonomous tractor in the retail market was as yet unknown.
He said the technology would filter down to other platforms, such as combines, hay balers and compact tractors.
New Holland research has also focused on a methane-powered tractor developed for the European market.
The manufacturer marked 100 years of Fordson tractor production with a celebration at the Henty Machinery Field Days on September 20.
HMFD chairman Ross Edwards said New Holland and Ford were early exhibitors at the event.
“New Holland and Ford were early exhibitors at the field days through Hugh Condon, Laurie Gregson, JD Phillips, Albury, and Ernie Rockcliff, Lockhart, as the original agents,’’ he said.
“The New Holland product came by train from Dandenong – the S class rail trucks were unloaded by a manual crane at the Henty railway station by HMFD volunteers and towed out to the site.
“As a kid, I remember the good quality New Holland machinery of square and round balers, rakes, slashers and the first headers.
“When I look at the autonomous tractor today, it is marvellous to see how far machinery has come in 50 years.
“What will happen in the next 50 years will be unbelievable.’’