The fast evolution of computing power together with the improvement of electronics and sensors in the last decade has resulted in the introduction of vehicle automation at a consumer level; therefore, every day, an increasing amount of commercial solutions are reaching the global market. The special shape in which agricultural fields are structured, on the other hand, makes off-road vehicles one of the best candidates for driving assistance. Very often, tractor or harvester operators are required to follow predefined rows for long periods of time, leading to physical and mental fatigue that can provoke dangerous situations or even fatal accidents. In such conditions, the aid brought by intelligent systems can represent a positive asset to farm production systems. The recent popularization of satellite navigation systems, such as GPS, has meant the final thrust to the deployment of automatic guidance systems. However, not only global positioning sensors are key in vehicle automation but a complex architecture comprising imaging, laser and ultrasonic devices can be found in recent models as well. This article presents an overview of patents issued in this field of automotive engineering over the last twenty years.
Keywords: Automatic guidance, off-road vehicles, GPS auto-steering, farm machinery automation, autonomous navigation, field robotics, agricultural robotics, crop-tracking vehicles, tractor guidance, &, intelligent vehicles
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