Look, ma! No cabs

Countryman
Case's autonomous concept vehicle.
Camera IconCase's autonomous concept vehicle. Credit: Countryman

Case IH has unveiled an autonomous concept vehicle at the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa.

The concept vehicle is a cabless Case IH row-crop tractor that can operate autonomously with a wide range of field implements.

Case IH Brand president Andreas Klauser said finding skilled labour in peak seasons was a constant challenge for many Case customers.

“While we offer auto-steering and telematics on our equipment today for remote management of farm machinery and employees, this autonomous tractor concept demonstrates how our customers and their employees could remotely monitor and control machines directly,” he said.

“This technology will offer our customers greater operational efficiencies for tasks such as tillage, planting, spraying and harvesting.”

Mr Klauser said the concept was created to validate the technology and to collect customer feedback regarding their interest and need for future autonomous products for their operations.

“It is very exciting for us to explore the possibilities that this technology can provide to our customers,” he said.

“We look forward to getting their input regarding this concept and how it can help them achieve new production efficiencies.”

Case IH and CNH Industrial’s Innovation Group based the cabless autonomous concept on an existing Case IH Magnum tractor with re-imagined styling.

The vehicle was built for a fully interactive interface to allow for remote monitoring of pre-programmed operations.

The onboard system automatically accounts for implement widths and plots the most efficient paths depending on the terrain, obstructions and other machines in use in the same field.

The remote operator can supervise and adjust path-ways via a desktop computer or portable tablet inter-face.

Through the use of radar, lidar (light imaging, detection, and ranging) and onboard video cameras, the vehicle can sense stationary or moving obstacles in its path and will stop on its own until the operator, notified by audio and visual alerts, assigns a new path.

The vehicle will also stop immediately if GPS signal or position data is lost, or if the manual stop button is pushed.

Machine tasks can also be modified in real time with via remote interface or automatic weather warnings.

AFS Global product marketing manager Rob Zemenchik said the autonomous tractor operation brought together the latest in guidance, telemetry, data sharing, and agronomic management to offer farm managers more control, monitoring capabilities and cost savings.

“A farm manager can supervise the activities of multiple machines via a mobile tablet interface while he tends to other tasks or even operates another vehicle,” he said.

“Multiple autonomous tractors can work as one fleet or simultaneously in multiple sub-fleets assigned to separate fields, each assigned with preprogrammed maps and prescriptions.

“So you could have one tractor pulling a chisel plough followed closely by another one operating a planter.

“The opportunities for efficiency are substantial.”

Although the autonomous vehicle is presently considered only as a concept tractor, Mr Zemenchik said the technology could function just as well in a standard cabbed tractor where it could use real-time weather and satellite data to optimally apply crop inputs such as nitrogen, herbicides, or fungicides.

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