Kubota Corporation unveiled its autonomous tractor concept vehicle at a new product exhibition held recently in Kyoto City, Japan. The concept tractor commemorates the 130th anniversary of the founding of the company and gives a glimpse into what the company calls its future of farming. It is equipped with artificial intelligence and electrification technology.
In releasing the concept tractor, Kubota notes it will continue developing products to realize smart agriculture with cutting-edge technology to address the challenges facing Japanese farmers. And while the concept vehicle was directed to the Japanese market, it does give a glimpse into the autonomous tractor concept that if fully realized would likely spread globally.
Noting that in Japan an increasing number of farmers are retiring due to aging, the average scale of farming continues to grow as a result of the contracting out of farm operations and the accumulation of farmland for efficient management. In order to address the challenges which farmers are facing such as labor shortage and low operating efficiency, it is urgently necessary to introduce smart farming, the company adds.
Since the launch of AGRIROBO tractors in 2017, Kubota has expanded autonomous agricultural machinery in the AGRIROBO Series. Now Kubota unveils this concept model with numerous advanced technologies, such as AI and electrification technology, in anticipation of the full-scale introduction of smart farming.
Features of the concept tractor include a futuristic design with completely unmanned operation by artificial intelligence. Based on various data such as weather data and growth rates, AI chooses the appropriate operation and makes actions timely. The goal is to achieve a completely autonomous operation. The environmental data obtained by tractors in operation can be automatically shared with other machines at site to realize centrally-managed efficient operation, Kubota says.
The concept tractor is 100 percent electric using a combination of lithium-ion batteries and solar batteries.
The four-wheeled crawler achieves stable autonomous driving even on uneven terrains. The four-wheeled crawler changes its shape to maintain the tractor height at the optimal level, thus performing in various processes. For the processes need high traction, Kubota adds the contact area with the ground to be increased by lowering the tractor height in order to lower its center of gravity. When operating above crops for their management, clearance from the ground to be adjusted by increasing the tractor height.
The company adds in-wheel motor makes it possible to arbitrarily change the rotation speed of the four crawlers (front, rear, right, and left) to achieve a small turning radius for autonomous operation on various types of land.