A prototype driverless tractor was unveiled at the 30th Annual International Agriculture and Horticulture Days of Mechanisation, on the 24th and 25th September in Oudenaarde, Belgium.
Developed by Flanders’ Mechatronics Technology Centre (FMTC), together with the Mechatronics, Biostatistics and Sensors (MeBioS) division of K.U.Leuven’s Biosystems Department, the tractor, using GPS and various positional sensors, adapts itself to terrain conditions and adjusts its speed and turning radius automatically.
One of the biggest hurdles for driverless farm equipment is maintaining traction control on constantly changing ground conditions. Gregory Pinte, of FMTC, explains: “The tractor must be capable of driving in both hard and wet terrain. Traditional navigation systems are unable to handle multi-terrain conditions. Instead, a different setting must be calibrated for each terrain type. That’s why we developed a steering system that intuits terrain conditions and estimates the expected wheel slippage. Based on a model of the tractor, the optimal speed and turning radius is calculated, in real-time, for the current terrain type. This ‘smart steering’ allows for precision down to the centimetre.”
A demo of the tractor can be seen below. The demo is on a fairly even grass surface so it doesn’t demonstrate the multi-terrain capabilities of the tractor. The tractor also doesn’t appear to be steering down to centimeter precision.
If you don’t see the video above, you can view it here.