Unveiled last year at the Farm Progress Show in the United States, the New Holland NHDrive concept autonomous tractor wowed crowds at major Australian field days.

The tractor is a driverless machine, which can perform a wide range of farming tasks day and night.

The Australian market is well known for its early adoption of innovation so it is natural that this technology would be showcased throughout Australia during peak field day season.

Bringing the tractor to Agquip, Henty, Yorke Peninsula and Elmore Field Days was part of a roadshow celebrating 100 years of tractors for New Holland.

The tractor has the capacity to reach the field autonomously via private on-farm tracks, working together with other autonomous or traditional operator controlled machines and courtesy of the cab New Holland’s NHDriveconcept autonomous tractor can still be driven, ensuring maximum flexibility for the operator. 

The T8 tractor is developed by Utah-based company CNH Industrial in collaboration with technology provider Autonomous Solutions.

It looks any other standard tractor, but as field days crowds saw, it offers incredible operational capacities. The unmanned vehicle is fully autonomous and can be monitored and controlled via a desktop computer or a portable tablet interface.

This enables farmers to access tractor and implement data, wherever they are, from different locations, while checking fields from the comfort of their ute, tending livestock or from home. It also facilitates right-time decision-making to enhance operational efficiency and productivity.

A path-plotting screen shows the tractor’s progress, while another shows its live camera feed, providing the user with up to four real-time views (two front and two rear).

A further screen enables monitoring and modification of key machine and implement parameters such as engine speed, fuel levels and implement settings, including seeding rate or coulter downforce. The route to the field can also be planned, should this involve private roads or tracks.

Able to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the NHDrive tractor helps to reduce the risks associated with human error as it follows predetermined and optimised plans for all activities. It is able to reach higher levels of productivity and efficiency than traditional methods. The tractor can make full use of the periods of favourable weather for farming operations by working day and night.

In the future, the tractor will be able to completely automate grain handling during the harvest when equipped with a trailer, including unloading, transport and offloading activities.

The driverless tractor is equipped with a cab that is completely identical to that of a standard T8. This means that it can also be used for those operations where complete autonomy is not yet possible, such as front-end loader work and high-speed road transport.

With regards to getting around the farm, the NHDrive tractor can travel on pre-mapped private paths. Simply “tell it” where to go and what it has to do once it has reached its destination via private tracks, and the tractor will get to work, either individually or in a convoy.

The New Holland NHDrive tractor makes full use of the advanced PLM (Precision Land Management) technology for precision farming. This Open – Connected – Smart – Supported technology is always accessible to all users and is continuously supported by New Holland specialists.

The NHDrive tractor follows optimised in-field paths, which are automatically generated by the software, after having taken into account the size and shape of the field, any pre-existing obstacles and the width of the implement to be used. Furthermore, it will be fully compatible with the full suite of PLM solutions.

In the future this concept will be able to utilise previously collected yield data for the variable application of inputs and to carry out operations with maximum precision, each year. The results are increased operating efficiency and the ability to make the most of short operating windows.

The NHDrive tractor is able to work alongside other autonomous machines and can also work in tandem with machines driven by an operator.

Thanks to a combination of radar, LiDAR (range finding lasers) and RGB cameras, the NHDrive is able to detect a wide range of in-field obstacles. If an obstacle is detected, the tractor sends a message to the interactive interface and the person responsible for the farming operations will decide if and how the tractor can avoid or bypass the obstacle.