It is not yet official, but Precision Makers, the Dutch maker of the X-Pert autonomous kit for tractors and professional ride-on lawn mowers, has decided to withdraw it from the market.
Effective from January 1, 2019, the company says that the main reason for stopping is the difficulty in keeping pace with the software development speed of the major tractor manufacturers.
Tractor makers provide no insight into the electronics, so each time they tweak or develop new software then the Dutch firm has to follow suit. “The problem is that tractor manufacturers don’t tell us they have updated the software,” said Precision Maker’s Allard Martinet.
“We only know when dealers carry out the updates and our solution no longer works. The only thing we can do is send out a couple of engineers and hope they can fix it. We have systems all over the world, so this is a major challenge both in terms of time and costs.”
The company first started working on the autonomous package in 2008. Launched commercially in 2012, the lion’s share of the 150 plug-and-play systems installed since are found on John Deere and Torro sportsground mowers. We took a close look at the system in the February 2017 issue of profi.
Some 30-odd, mainly Fendt orchard tractors, are fitted with the system. Also fitted to a handful of John Deere 8Rs, we reckon the most powerful tractors ever fitted with the autonomous kit were 360hp models from Fendt (936 Vario) and John Deere (8345R).
Precision Makers will support existing customers (around 150 units sold) with parts for 10 years and software for the next few years.
The company has also ceased production of its YieldMasterPro weighing system for potato and sugar beet harvesters. Precision makers is part of the Dutch Power Company, which as well as Votex and Herder, also own Conver, which makes the Greenbot, a dedicated 105hp autonomous vehicle.
The company says that while it cannot rule out making an autonomous package for third parties in the future, the immediate focus is the developing of new software for in-house-developed products.