In a country where farmers still pull the plough, a tractor is an important vehicle for faster and better tilling of land. However, many states are experiencing a severe labor shortage and not many know how to drive a tractor. Mahindra & Mahindra unveiled its first driverless tractor. The autonomous tractor will aim to enhance precision farming, increase productivity, improve quality and facilitate coverage of large tracts of the land.

The tractor is developed at Mahindra Research Valley in Chennai and is slated for launch in February next year. The tractor can be programmed to carry out specific tasks and can also be operated remotely via a tablet. The first launch, however, would house only an automated steering assist.

The fully driverless product will be ready by 2018-end and eventually be deployed across all tractor platforms, ranging from 20 HP models to 100 HP products, says Pawan Goenka, managing director of the firm.

Goldman Sachs predicted in 2016 that farm technologies could become a $240-billion market opportunity for agriculture suppliers with smaller driverless tractors, which they estimated is a $45 billion market. At the company’s annual general meeting last year, Anand Mahindra, chairman and managing director of Mahindra Group said, “I have stressed in the recent past…we must focus on developing autonomous, driverless commercial vehicles.”

In one of many initiatives of Mahindra & Mahindra’s goal of becoming a global tractor player, Goenka says the company has collaborated with several technology companies, including overseas players. The new technology will also be available across international markets such as the US and Japan, he adds.