As we all know it technology is advancing, and it is advancing quickly. The things we might have taken for granted can now be done by a machine. A machine, who is perfect compared to a human, who does not get tired as fast, and who does not need to get paid as it is created for solely that purpose, to work. This means that the machine will soon replace a worker if not all.
While there is many of these technological advanced machines emerging, today we will talk about one. Autonomous vehicles in agriculture, specifically autonomous tractors.
Autonomous tractors are nothing new to agriculture. The idea has been around for quite a while. The first self-driven tractor was mentioned by Frank W. Andrew, who placed a barrel in the middle and tied the tractor with it using a cable wire. The tractor would circulate around the farm and work without the need of a worker on it. He called this, circle farming. Later on, in 1980’s, tractors now had GPS devices and computers that farmers could use while on the tractor. However, they were still semi-automatic, meaning that a driver or worker was still needed to maintain and manage the tractor. The farmers or the workers now only had to steer when they got to the end of the row. This gave them time to use their time elsewhere, this increasing their productivity time.
Now it is 2017, and tractors have become independent and autonomous. So, how do these tractors work? Current self-driving tractors navigate using lasers that bounce signals from mobile transponders, which receives signals from frequencies or in this case specifically laser frequencies. Instead of drivers, the tractors now have controllers. The farmer can not only control one but multiple autonomous tractors in different fields. This means that the tractor is still being controlled and maintained by a person, but they no longer have to be inside of it, thus only one worker is needed for x amount of tractors cutting more than half of the workers they would need if the tractors were not autonomous.
Other autonomous tractors use CAN bus, CAN bus is a message based protocol, to allow micro controllers and devices to communicate without a computer. This is already being used in cars. For example, when starting or stopping a car, the micro controllers send messages via the CAN bus to the motor to be able to do accomplish the commands sent by the controllers. So using CAN bus, GPS and radio automation allows to send commands to the tractor without a worker. Another technology used is a retrofit radio. A retrofit radio is used to receive commands from the remote command station and translate it into vehicle commands such as steering, acceleration, braking, transmission, and implement control. This is what helps the tractor steer move and work.
However, GPS can face no reception dead spots, sun spots, or other interfaces that farmers don’t really want to deal with, so AutoDrive is the newest emerging technology currently available that offers precise and repeatable accuracy for autonomous vehicles. It works using the Laser-radio Navigation system, which also allows a farmer to train a tractor with no programming. The tractors also include cameras in order to communicate via mobile to allow the farmer to monitor the tractor.
Another aspect of the new autonomous tractors are the eDrive motors. These specialized motors are easy to replace, which means they cost less. They provide 30% fuel efficiency, quieter operation, and easy to control. The eDrive motor is powered by a 10hp wheel motor, with only two gears and no transmission gives about 25,000 hours of service with no maintenance needed. The motors can also be easily replaced.
As we can see, technology is advancing, and although many people are frighten to lose their jobs, they will lose their jobs, but there will be new jobs emerging it is up to the individual to realize their potential and search for a better paying job.