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M&M to launch driverless tractor next year

Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) on Tuesday unveiled its prototype for driverless tractor and it expects to launch it by early next year.

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M&M to launch driverless tractor next year
Pawan Goenka, MD, M&M, displaying the driverless tractor prototype on Tuesday
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Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) on Tuesday unveiled its prototype for driverless tractor and it expects to launch it by early next year.

Also, the company said it is in talks with telecom operators for improving internet connectivity in areas where the network is still not good in order to make the launch smoother.

On the cost of driverless tractors, managing director Pawan Goenka said that product would see traction among customers only if the company can bring down the cost to under Rs 1 lakh, adding that they are working towards it.

According to Goenka, this technology will be deployed across Mahindra tractors platforms in the due course of time. And once the domestic expansion reaches desired results, it will also be deployed across international markets such as the US and Japan.

The company, which has a market share of around 43-44% in the tractor segment, wants to remain focused on developing and selling under-150 HP tractors, catering to farms not more than 50 hectare as most of the farm sizes in India fall under this category. However, for international markets, larger tractors would be pushed as the farm sizes there are much larger, Goenka said.

According to company estimates, around 30% of their tractor revenue comes from the markets outside of India and M&M plans to increase that to around 50% in the next few years.

As per the company officials, the first phase launch, which is slated for next year, will not have entirely autonomous tractors as a driver will be able to control it. However, the third phase launch will see entirely autonomous tractors, the officials added.

Rajesh Jejurikar, president, farm equipment sector, M&M said, "Today, the need for farm mechanisation is higher than ever before due to labour shortages and need to improve productivity and farm produce yield".

Anand Mahindra, chairman, M&M Ltd, during the 70th annual general meeting held in Mumbai last year had said that his company would like to develop driverless tractors. "It is also an area where paranoia about accidents and collisions is virtually non-existent," he had added.

Though the concept for autonomously-driven tractors has been in the market since the 1940s, it is only in recent years that the industry has taken some serious efforts to develop it for efficient agricultural uses.

The tractor uses GPS to determine its location and can drive itself using data input on the shape and size of the field it is operating in. The vehicle can be used for tilling the ground and applying fertilisers and pesticides.

Driverless cars are currently the focus of innovation, with quite a handful of tech and traditional auto companies investing big time on its research development.

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