Deere and Company helped mechanize agriculture with the first commercially successful steel plow in 1837. They recently went in a different direction by unveiling another transformative machine: a fully autonomous tractor.
Wired says the new 8R tractor uses six pairs of cameras and advanced artificial intelligence to navigate its environment. It can find its way to a field when given a route and coordinates. Once there, it can plow soil or plant seeds without instructions, and the machine avoids the obstacles in each field. Farmers can also give the tractor new instructions through a smartphone app.
Farmers are presented with plenty of challenges, looking for ways to lower input costs and maximize yield, all while dealing with limited labor. John Deere says the unmanned tractor will help farmers be more efficient and use less labor.
Other tractors on the market can operate autonomously, but only in limited ways. They can follow a defined route through GPS but can’t avoid obstacles. Others feature limited autonomy but still need a farmer behind the wheel.
Deere hasn’t announced how much it will cost but said the tractor will be available to a select number of farmers later this year. The 8R relies on neural network algorithms to interpret information from the cameras.