Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Driverless tractors now a reality as New Holland unveils the future

New Holland has unveiled an unmanned tractor that can be operated from mobile devices

The NH Drive autonomous tractor in action.
The NH Drive autonomous tractor in action.
Derek Casey

Derek Casey

The driverless tractor is a concept that has been talked about for years.

But one man's dream is another man's nightmare, and plenty of proud Irish tractor drivers would see an autonomous tractor fall firmly into the latter category.

Time waits for no man, however, and the driverless tractor concept got one step closer last week with the unveiling at the Farm Progress Show in the United States of a CNH-built concept autonomous tractor called "NH Drive" that can perform a wide range of farming tasks, day and night.

At first glance, the tractor might look like a normal standard machine, but once the first images of the promo video appeared everyone understood they were witnessing a glimpse into the future of farming, one that could feature fully autonomous machinery.

The NH Drive tractor is an unmanned vehicle that is fully autonomous and can be monitored and controlled via a desktop computer or via 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 home.

A path-plotting screen shows the tractor's progress, 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.

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In a description that has the potential to break hearts around Ireland, New Holland claims its concept machine will "be able to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and reduce the risks associated with human error."

The tractor will allow for higher levels of productivity and can make full use of periods of favourable weather for farming operations by working day and night.


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

"The autonomous tractor offers us the opportunity to open up completely new horizons for future farming," stated Carlo Lambro, brand president of New Holland Agriculture.

"Farming will become increasingly responsible for ensuring the availability of food produced in an efficient and sustainable way.

"An autonomous tractor that is able to work day and night helps solve the problem of a lack of specialised labour during the most intense seasons."

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