Technology in Agriculture

Issues in the design of Autonomous Tractors

With software systems getting into every aspect of our industrial world, we take a look into a slightly different aspect of our development world. Agricultural use of software systems has moved forward in leaps and bounds over the last 25 years and now like the automated gardening robots you see mowing peoples lawns, automated vehicles are moving into the farming world.

Toby Mottram will be discussing the issues around autonomous tractors which are now in use around the world and likely to be be more widespead in the farming industry.

Autonomous tractors and specialist agricultural vehicles are now on sale from a number of suppliers worldwide.

Many systems and companies will doubtless fail during this wave of development funded by optimistic visionary entrepreneurs. It is worth reviewing what is the purpose of these vehicles and discussing how the multiple applications on farms are changing as a result of innovations in chemistry and biology. Similarly concerns about soil management, carbon sequestration, energy consumption are quickly changing the design parameters. Software integration is well understood in other sectors with concepts such as containerisation and APIs and these techniques are particularly important in tractor design given the range of different processing machines required even on single crops. Mapping systems are vitally important as are standards such as ISOBUS.

The safety of humans near moving machinery is still an open area for improvement.