From the outside there isn’t a great lot different about New Holland’s latest T8 offering compared with previous models. But just a quick glance inside the cab makes it clear that the R&D team has been very busy. David Williams tried it out.
New Holland’s concept autonomous tractor did the rounds at UK shows a few years ago, with a futuristic cab incorporating bright-lit digital displays shouting about what tractors of the future might look like. Now the future is here and the ‘T8 Genesis with PLM Intelligence’ Horizon cab shares many characteristics with the experimental machine, including large, brightly coloured crystal clear displays that will appeal to operators.
The latest T8 line-up includes 5 models from 320–435hp (max EPM) and, like the previous range, the target market is larger arable farms and contractors, many of who will already be using precision farming technology to optimise efficiency of operations.
Most upgrades inside
From the outside, along with new decals, the most obvious indication that the tractor is the latest model is the lack of a B-pillar on the left side of the cab. Removing this has allowed a larger door for improved cab access.
Central locking is available using a new remote key which also incorporates a coded immobiliser. A master key can be programmed to access and start a whole fleet of the farm’s tractors while other operator keys can have access to different tractors allowed or denied.
The cab frame is similar to before, but a complete redesign resulting from user consultation includes extra storage for large items as well as odds and ends. The cab floor includes shaped compartments which prevent loose items rolling about.
With increasing use of electric-powered accessories there are a large number of 12-volt power points as well as USB-charging connectors. To the side of the driver’s seat in a large storage compartment, there is even a 240-volt socket likely to be popular with those who need to charge laptops during the working day.
With a nod to its American heritage the new T8 Genesis has leather upholstery similar to traditional American lorries or pick-ups, which is functional but extremely comfortable.
Heating and ventilation are upgraded with programmable zone control and additional vents.
Another update is improved semi-active cab suspension. Actuators under each side of the cab adjust the firmness of the ride while a large anti-roll torsion bar at the rear keeps the cab level.
Both rear view mirrors are on telescopic arms – allowing extension for use with high trailers and retraction to prevent damage when the extra length isn’t needed, using a switch in the cab. Front and rear cameras are standard and up to two additional cameras can be specified linked direct to the screen for implement or trailer monitoring. The front camera has a 170-degree field of vision, increasing safety for those emerging from fields on to a road through a hedge for example, where the view to the sides would otherwise be impaired.
For those working at night, 30 per cent extra lighting performance is available. New Holland T7, T8 and T9 product marketing manager for Europe, Darragh Mullin, talked Farmers Guide through the new model’s features and benefits, and he explained that the optional top specification 360-degree LED light package is currently the most popular lighting upgrade. However, an even more powerful 49,400-lumen light set for the new Genesis models is expected to prove even more popular.
Traditionally New Holland has been closely aligned with Trimble for its display and guidance hardware but the new IntelliView 12 terminals for the T8 Genesis were designed in-house and use an Android operating system. This has given New Holland a free hand to incorporate any features it needs and, although the demonstration machine terminal included many new functions, developments continue and there is the potential for upgrades later – many of which remain secret for now.
Darragh explained that as use of precision farming technology increases, it’s likely that communication within a local network, including other machines in the field, will be the priority, while telematics for remote task monitoring and management will also be increasingly important. “Although full autonomous operation might be some way off yet, it’s likely that we will see linked machines working together much sooner, perhaps within just a few years. Examples would be a leader and follower situation for machines engaged in field work, or a tractor and trailer controlled automatically while a combine unloads.”
The amount of data required to allow ‘decisions’ to be made by the system in operations of this type is huge, and the new T8 has four Canbus networks rather than two on previous models. The main display is integral to the tractor and not intended to be swapped between machines, which suggests that New Holland sees it as the tractor’s brain rather than an accessory. With massive potential for upgrading in future, could these tractors be capable of fully autonomous operation as development of systems and legislation continues? Darragh didn’t agree or disagree but stated that it’s safe to assume the new T8 Genesis has the ‘building blocks’ for future autonomous operation if and when it becomes viable.
A new SideWinder Ultra armrest is customisable, and divided into 3 areas with functions required 85 per cent of the time accessed through the Command Grip multi-function joystick. Those needed less often are adjacent on the main console and those used only 5 per cent of the time are in a strip further to the right. There are quick access buttons for 2 pre-set engine speeds, diff lock and 4wd, 5 configurable remotes which all incorporate easily-set locking functions, and up to 11 buttons which can be programmed with specific functions to suit user preference and applications.
A handy new feature making it easier to select and control hydraulic valve functions is the ability to configure and colour-code each switch to suit the task. The switches change colour to indicate the selected function and each can be configured for five function areas, with additional options available within each function menu.
The increased customisation, with many controls capable of multi-tasking, has resulted in 17 per cent fewer buttons and switches than previously, and the cab feels less cluttered than before.
All telephone controls are on the armrest, heat and ventilation settings are also conveniently to hand, and a new linkage control design in the form of a fixed computer ‘mouse’ for both front and rear linkages is also included. The mouse is palm-shaped with buttons and a scroll selector and allows all linkage functions to be controlled without the operator repositioning his hand.
To the right of the mouse is a smaller joystick which includes forward/reverse shuttle selector buttons, gear shift or range selector buttons as well as 2 configurable buttons.
The new Command Grip joystick design includes 20 per cent more buttons than before, and is now Isobus- and vehicle-configurable.
Isobus Class 3 is also available for the first time on T8 models allowing tractor control by implement and additional complex functions.
Obviously significant investment in hardware development has been made, and Darragh confirmed that, although the new T8-series have been selected as the first to have it, other tractors in the range will have it in future and it will also appear on New Holland machines such as harvesters.
A simplified form of the system through a retro-fit IntelliView 12 display will be available for other brands for maximum compatibility across a farm or contracting fleet.
Previous models had a separate GPS receiver, navigation controller and modem, but New Holland’s new GPS system is reduced to just two components making it simpler and easier to swap between machines.
New Holland claims an advantage of the new guidance hardware is that, because it is supplied and maintained through the New Holland main dealer, it’s easier to gain after-sales service and advice.
Increased compatibility with up to nine GPS satellite networks helps future-proof the system and will ensure accuracy in almost any location. N-Trip network compatibility provides accurate guidance by phone signal without a base station, but for those with RTK the new system is also fully compatible.
Meeting Stage 5 emissions regulations has been achieved through a larger catalyst chamber and without EGR or increased Adblue use. The fuel and Adblue tanks of the latest T8 are identical to its predecessor.
Servicing is every 600 hours as on previous models.
A handy new feature is self-calibration of auto-steer. All that is required is to set auto-calibration mode on the display, drive 100m in one direction and back again, and calibration is complete.
The latest track assemblies on SmartTrax half-track models have bolt-on rollers making replacement easier and the new rollers are also available to retro-fit to existing tractors. Rubber tracks are by Camso but New Holland is currently trialling Soucy tracks with a view to offering users an option.
Remote assistance services
New Holland Intelliview Connect is a service allowing the tractor operator to share his Intelliview display with a supervisor or dealer when requested, for assistance or problem solving.
Remote diagnostics allows the tractor’s systems to be checked for faults and, if the problem is caused by a setting error or software issue, there is the opportunity to correct it remotely at the time, or if parts are needed then the necessary component can be identified and an engineer can bring it for fitting, potentially saving a diagnostic visit. Remote firmware updates are also available wirelessly.
Maintenance requirements and fault notifications can also be monitored, allowing the dealer and user to schedule servicing and minimise downtime.
The flagship T8 Genesis 435 SmartTrax was working away from public view on a large Oxfordshire estate, with a Vaderstad Carrier cultivator on post-harvest cereal stubble which gave plenty of opportunity to try setting up and using the new control and guidance systems.
The in-house designed main IntelliView 12 terminal has working logic similar to a tablet and proved easy to use with simple menus accessed by touching the screen. Along the top of the display is an information bar with clear icons indicating which functions are selected and in use. The practical design doesn’t only include operation by screen touch which can be tricky on bumpy ground. Positive operation by quick-access buttons on the SideWinder Ultra armrest is just as easy to use and there is also control available through a twist dial with click selection.
The new display is more interactive than anything seen before and the user can touch the screen to zoom in or out and even rotate the view.
A handy feature is the ability to record screenshots by pressing and holding the camera screen symbol. The images are stored and can be easily shared with others to highlight information of interest from performance data to guidance or Isobus-control images.
For task and machine management the user selects the task by description, then the attachment from a farm-specific drop-down list. Additional implements are easily added when needed. Full dimensions of the implement can be input and displayed for reference and an accurate diagram is shown.
When the operator chooses the task and implement from the menu, the guidance screen displays an image of the tractor and implement together – a clever feature which helps ensure the correct equipment and task have been selected for accurate record keeping.
The new IntelliView 12 display provides very easy set-up of guidance modes and working strategies which means that, with familiarity, just a few minutes is needed at the start of a task or a new field to create an efficient working pattern.
For simultaneous use of the screen for guidance while controlling and monitoring Isobus-compatible implements, the user has the option to select a split screen view.
New dashboard display
The previous A-pillar post display is replaced by Info View. This is a full colour display on the front console, providing essential tractor operating information including travel speed, engine revs, fuel level and temperature. Additional information such as cruise control speed settings are also available at a glance. As well as displaying operational information, a camera feed will also be available in future upgrades, with the digital screen reconfiguring to prioritise the camera image with all other information minimised and relocated.
Although the new glowing displays look complex at first, it’s actually very easy to use the menus and work out how to check and change the main settings. The new control layout is excellent and everything is within easy reach. The colour-coded hydraulic controls make it easy to see at a glance which are needed and, if a different colour is preferred, then with a few touches of the screen the change can be made. The front instrument panel with its new Info View display provides most of the tractor performance information needed for the road and in the field and, because there is so much included, there is less need to refer to the main IntelliView 12 display, allowing the operator to keep his eyes to the front.
The new cab is easier to access through the wider opening door and, although the cab is the same size physically as its predecessor, it actually feels larger, mainly due to the revised instruments and control layout. Comfort is excellent and a run along a bumpy farm track emphasised the performance of the new cab suspension, although the luxury leather seats also played their part in the ride quality.
Brake to steer is new on SmartTrax models with customisable steering improving manoeuvrability and turning performance and reducing scuffing during turns.
Looking beyond all the clever functions available on the demonstration tractor, and mindful of the fact that many more remain in development for adding later, the new T8 Genesis PLM Intelligence series is likely to be an attractive long-term investment for professional farmers and contractors. It’s capable of so much more than cultivating stubble with an operator at the wheel and, in future – depending on legislation and industry acceptance, more of its capabilities will hopefully be revealed.
The T8 Genesis models will be unveiled officially at Agritechnica in early November and deliveries to customers will commence in late spring next year.