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Self-Driving Tractors First, Cars Later: Anand Mahindra

Anand Mahindra wants to improve productivity through autonomous tractors and trucks.

The world over, carmakers are working to launch safe self-driving cars, but the man who heads India's largest farm equipment manufacturer, says the company will focus on autonomous tractors first. Cars can come later.

“There was so much talk about autonomous cars that I felt compelled at one of our annual general meetings to state out loud that the sequence of autonomy is going to come first for tractors”, said Anand Mahindra, chairman and managing director of Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd. speaking at the NASSCOM Leadership Forum.

The reason? Mahindra said tractors do not run the risk of running into someone in a farm field, and would also improve productivity.

Anand Mahindra, Chairman and MD, M&M Tractors don’t run into anyone in the field. They do not cause paranoia. They are the easiest to make autonomous and they raise productivity dramatically. We are going to do that for sure.

Mahindra said that its strategic partner in Tokyo, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., is already ahead of the curve when it comes to development of autonomous technology. He added that M&M will look at collaborating with Mitsubishi to develop autonomous tractors.

Anand Mahindra, Chairman and MD, M&M I have to admit in full disclosure that we manage Mitsubishi Tractors in Tokyo. They are already well ahead in the game. So we’ve got a collaborative network with our Detroit centre and with Mitsubishi Tractors to bring autonomous tractors in.

M&M had acquired a 33 percent stake in Mitsubishi Agriculture Machinery, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in May 2015.

This wasn't the first time the chairman of the automotive giant has called for autonomous farming equipment. In an address to shareholders in August 2016, he had first played up his ambition to have self driving vehicles in farms across the country.

Mahindra's proposition to develop self-driving tractors is not new for the farm mechanisation industry. Global rival Deere & Co., Fendt, Case IH and Autonomous Tractor Corporation are already developing autonomous and semi autonomous farm vehicles.

Mahindra also said that automated trucks will follow tractors. Trucks like tractors, will improve productivity on a massive scale, he stated.

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Not So Scared About The Trump Administration

Mahindra said U.S. President Donald Trump's policy of focusing on domestic manufacture will make the U.S. a favoured investment destination.

Anand Mahindra, Chairman and MD, M&M Trump’s Make in America policy will make the U.S. a wonderful place to invest in. Our group will double our bets on America because we think it’s very robust.

Mahindra said that there was too much made of Trump's visa policies affecting the Indian information technology industry. He questioned the need for onshore presence in the U.S. since the industry is now transitioning towards cloud platforms.

Anand Mahindra, Chairman and MD, M&M IT is on the cloud, in an app, then why are we worrying so much about onshore presence?

He also proposed that companies should focus on maintaining their costs and increasing their offshore component, rather than looking to pass on the higher costs of visas to their customers in the U.S.

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