I suppose this shouldn’t really be surprising, but even though I almost exclusively associate the idea of pie-in-the-sky concept machines with the automotive industry, they’re not the only ones do this kind of thing. For example, the farm machinery industry has fun making wild futuristic concepts, too, as you can see here, with this menacing-looking Kubota autonomous electric tractor concept called the X Tractor. It looks like a pissed-off robot tarantula-puma.
Kubota has been making “Dream Tractors” since 1970; check out how cool that first Dream Tractor was, shown at the Japan World Exposition as part of EXPO ‘70:
I mean, I’d drive that thing around as my daily car, happily.
Now, I haven’t found any evidence of Dream Tractors since the one in 1970 and this current one from our strange year of 2020, which means the technological gulf between the two concept tractors is pretty vast.
The X Tractor (pronounced “Cross Tractor,” Kubota tells me) is an autonomous vehicle, something that was in part justified by a uniquely Japanese issue, as described in their press release:
In Japan, while an increasing number of farmers retire due to ageing, 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 labour shortage and low operating efficiency, it is urgently necessary to introduce smart farming.
A number of Japanese robotics advancements have been spurred on by the same ageing population issue, like the use of strength-enhancing exoskeletons to help nurses move elderly patients around and be funny little companions and that sort of thing.
I like how the press release talks about the sleek design while sort of tacitly admitting that sleek, streamlined forms really don’t matter that much for a low-speed tractor:
Following and advancing of the identity of Kubota tractors, created smooth shape through awareness of environmental protection and harmony with natures.
The tractor has lithium-ion batteries and some solar panels that drive the in-wheel (or, I guess, in tread?) motors, the speed and steering of which can be changed independently, giving it a lot of manoeuvrability. The “limbs” can also adjust their angles to raise or lower the height of the tractor, based on crop height or to adjust the centre of gravity.
So, it’s a farm robot. Like all concepts, it’s at least 55 per cent bullshit, but the fundamental technologies are all real and established, and I’d expect that we’ll start seeing these sorts of machines deployed in farms before long.
In fact, the more orderly nature of most farms means that I expect we’ll see fully autonomous tractors, combines, harvesters, and other farm equipment working on farms as teams well before we see fully autonomous cars on our roads.
I’m not sure why it looks so pissed, though. Maybe it just hates vegetables.