Kubota’s modern driverless electric tractor

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Back in 1970 Japanese agricultural manufacturer Kubota Corporation introduced the world to its first advanced tractor the ‘Dream Tractor’ (which actually looked more like a car than a tractor). It remained a concept vehicle however, never reaching production.

Fast forward fifty years and at a new product exhibition in Kyoto this month, Kubota unveiled its new zero emissions concept autonomous tractor the “X tractor – cross tractor”. Thus marking the company’s 130th anniversary.

Kubota's 'X tractor - cross tractor'

Kubota’s ‘X tractor – cross tractor’

With the X tractor, Kubota offers us a futuristic tractor that’s electrically-powered, with lithium-ion battery packs and solar panels. It is outfitted with tools that include GPS, on-board sensors such as cameras, and an AI-system.

An ultra-modern vehicle, the X Tractor will use AI to monitor factors such as weather and the growth rate of crops, so it can actually decide when to head out and perform tasks such as seeding, harvesting or tilling. The environmental data obtained by this tractor in operation can be automatically shared with other IoT connected devices on farm to help centralise data management and decision making.

The X tractor has been designed with a smooth modern sleek shape that is meant to better reflect nature and the environment in which it will operate. We think it actually wouldn’t look out of place on a NASA mission to Saturn’s moon Enceladus in a hunt for water and life.

The vehicle changes shape and height to adjust to its terrain. So, for instance, it drops when extra stability is needed for irregular terrain or for wet rice paddies and raises itself when roaming rows of taller plants.

Instead of wheels, the X tractor has four Mattracks-like “crawlers”, the driver can rotate their spreads at different speeds. This gives the truck a tight-turning radius for different terrains.

The tractor, Kubota said in a press release, is designed “to address the challenges for Japanese agriculture, which include the aging of farmers and labor shortage.” While more farmers retire as they get older, Japan has fewer laborers to manage the increasingly large amounts of land. With that problem in mind, Kubota introduced its driverless tractor.

There has been a mixed reception to the X tractor online, the benefits are clearly appreciated – a twenty-four hour all weather vehicle that doesn’t tire or grumble has clear benefits but some question the practicality of the ‘monster tracks’ which might appear cumbersome and potentially damaging to crops.

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About Author

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Leah Zitter is an award-winning High-Tech writer/ journalist with a PhD in Research and clients that include the Association For Advancing Automation (A3).

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