Robot tractor moving fast with eye to the future; first demonstration in Toyama successful

A robot tractor running without a driver on a farm road. (In Toyama City, Toyama Prefecture)

A robot tractor running without a driver on a farm road. (In Toyama City, Toyama Prefecture)

TOYAMA, Oct. 23-An empty tractor completed the work at one farmland and moved to another. No one was sitting in the driver seat, but on the way when it saw a mannequin doll crossing, it stopped automatically and give way to the doll. Such a futuristic experiment was shown at the farmland of an agricultural corporation in the capital of Toyama Prefecture on October 22, 2020.

The next-generation tractor was developed by a consortium led by the National Agricultural Research Organization and demonstrated in the prefecture in central Japan.

Conventional robot tractors can work autonomously without a driver in farmland, but they still need drivers to drive on the road. So, the Japanese government had been pushing the development of a fully-remote-controllable driving system that can also travel from one farmland to another, aiming to complete it by 2020.

The new system uses a drone in advance to measure the size of the farmlands and create some data to inform the tractor of the location and how it can access the sites. The vehicle for the testing in Toyoma City was controlled remotely from the agricultural corporation’s office 400 meters away from the test location. The tractor has some cameras to send views to the operator in the office and sensors to detect human and other obstacles and stop automatically.

The consortium plans to go on to do operational testing locally in fiscal 2021 and complete the development for practical use by fiscal 2022.

The Japanese agriculture minister, Kotaro Nogami, also saw the demonstration and said, “It’s a very important project that can open up great possibilities for Japanese agriculture.”

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