Valtra and Elisa introduce remote-controlled tractor

Major step towards autonomous driving

20 May 2020

Valtra and Elisa have joined forces to innovate a 5G solution which enables the remote operation of a tractor with the 5G network and a 360 camera. The solution is the first of its kind in the world. 

In March, Valtra and Elisa unveiled a remote-controlled tractor, utilising new-generation 5G network technology. The collaboration was featured at the opening event of the Elisa 5G Showroom. The prototype solution enables the real-time, safe control and operation of a tractor hundreds of kilometres away. “Radio-controlled tractors have been in use for years, but it’s always meant staying within sight of the machine. 5G revolutionises this, as now a tractor can be driven remotely from anywhere,” says Mikko Lehikoinen, Vice President, Sales and Marketing Valtra.

“Elisa is a forerunner in 5G technology, both in Finland and internationally. The remote-controlled tractor that’s been developed together with Valtra and introduced at Elisa 5G Showroom has generated a lot of interest. 5G services and solutions are going to bring efficiency and innovative new ways of operating for businesses and people. The remote-controlled tractor is a very real example of this, as the driver no longer needs to physically sit in the cab. We want to build a sustainable future through digitalisation, and developing 5G services is part of making that a reality,” says Kimmo Pentikäinen, Vice President, Business Development at Elisa.

When you drive your tractor and turn its wheels, you need to get immediate feedback to give the feeling of driving. With 5G, the low latency makes this possible.

Remote control to improve safety

The remote control was achieved through an integrated 5G connection and a roof-mounted 360-degree camera. The 5G network enables the remote driver’s VR glasses to receive a 4K view of the environment in real time. The driver can examine the tractor’s surroundings simply by turning their head. The remote control sends its control signal through Elisa’s commercial, high-security 5G network. “When you drive your tractor and turn its wheels, you need to get immediate feedback to give the feeling of driving. With 5G, the low latency makes this possible”, says Lehikoinen.

Remote control is a key step towards fully autonomous driving, which could become a reality for many end users within the next decade. Remote control can be utilised for instance to operate driverless tractors in challenging sites or tasks that would be dangerous in manned operations. This makes a tractor an even more versatile solution and tool.

Connect already uses 3G

Valtra has previously piloted remote-controlled tractors with airport operator Finavia.

”We will continue our work in researching and developing remote control solutions. Next we plan to figure out how to adjust picture quality according to each task, and how remote operation could be further enhanced with sensor data useful to the operator,” says Lehikoinen.

Valtra tractor technologies already supports remote control, which will facilitate the implementation of remote control features. For example, the Valtra Connect telemetry solution which uses the 3G signal is in use in over 3,000 Valtra tractors across the world.