Mahindra unveils its version of a driverless tractor

Pawan Goenka, Managing Director of M&M at the unveiling of driverless technology for tractors at the Mahindra Research Valley near Chennai

Mahindra & Mahindra is about to take its Indian customers on the greatest journey of their lives with the company’s first autonomous tractor planned for release in 2018.

India is still a country where some farmers pull their own plough, and while Mahindra sells 30,000-plus tractors in its home market each year, not all Indian farmers’ can afford the luxury of owning a tractor.

But the Mahindra autonomous tractor will change all that by adding precision farming to facilitate coverage of larger tracts of land for economic scale, and put tractor ownership within the reach of all farmers.

The autonomous tractor is being developed at the Mahindra Research Valley in Chennai India and is slated for launch in February 2018. The tractor can be programmed to carry out specific tasks and can also be operated remotely by a tablet. But at its initial launch, the tractor will only carry automated steering assist.

M & M’s commercial launch of their autonomous tractors will be early 2018 but it will be done over three phases. Firstly, M & M will introduce automated steering-assisted tractors then the second stage will be quasi driverless tractors, while the third stage will be the roll out of fully autonomous tractors

The fully driverless product will be ready by the end of 2018 and will eventually be deployed across all Mahindra tractor platforms, ranging in power from 15 to 74kW (20 to 100hp), says Pawan Goenka, managing director of the firm.

The fully loaded Mahindra driverless tractor will be equipped with autosteer GPS-based technology to enable the tractor to travel along a straight line; for an auto-headland turn as the tractor orients itself along adjacent rows for continuous operation.

There will be auto-implement lift to raise tools from the ground at the end of a row and lower them once the tractor has oriented itself for operation at the start of the next row. There will also be a skip pass technology that enables the tractor to steer to the next row for continuous operation without any intervention from an overseeing operator.

Goldman Sachs predicted in 2016 that farm technologies could become a $240-billion market opportunity for agriculture suppliers. With smaller driverless tractors estimated to slice out a $45 billion chunk of that market. At the company’s annual general meeting last year, Anand Mahindra, chairman and managing director of Mahindra Group said, “I have stressed in the recent past…we must focus on developing autonomous, driverless commercial vehicles.”

In one of many initiatives of Mahindra & Mahindra’s goal of becoming a major global tractor supplier, says Pawan Goenka managing director of the firm. The company has collaborated with several technology companies, including overseas players. Mahindra’s autonomous tractor models will also be available across international markets such as the US and Japan, he adds.