No Driver Tractor Is A No Show At Big Iron

Inside Dakota Ag

Spirit, the revolutionary, 300-hp driverless tractor being developed in Fargo didn't make it to the Big Iron field demos.

Published on: September 14, 2012

I was disappointed that the driverless tractor being built in Fargo didn’t make it to the field demos at Big Iron on Tuesday last week.

Software didn’t get finished, explained one of the Autonomous Tractor Corporation reps.

I was looking forward to seeing how the revolutionary “no driver” tractor would perform in the field. The developer told me earlier this year that it would it would follow another tractor. If you were disking a field, you could hook another disk to the driverless tractor, and do two swaths at once. Or you could be combining and a driverless tractor pulling a tillage implement follow along behind you. As you became more confident in the tractor’s ability to operate by itself, you would be able to program it to work the field alone.

The company did have the tractor on display at Big Iron and it drew a steady crowd of farmers who wanted to check it out.

There was plenty to see -- or to not see.

The 300 hp tractor called Spirit looks more like a big box than a tractor. There’s no cab, of course. There’s no transmission or axle, either Instead, it is powered by an electric drive system. Two Cummings diesel engines generate electricity that turns the motors on the track’s drive wheels.

There’s no GPS system. Instead a laser, much like the type used by the military to paint targets and guide rockets, guides the tractor.

The frame is made mostly made out of I-beams and square tubing .

The driverless tractor is projected to cost about $500 per horsepower, about half the price of conventional tractors.

It all sounds pretty neat. But I’d like to see it actually working in a field.

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