Driverless Vehicles Hit the Field: John Deere Introduces Autonomous Tractor

Little by little, autonomous vehicles are reaching all kinds of sectors. After being seen as one of the revolutions of the future in passenger transport, and even in road freight, they will also foreseeably arrive in the countryside in the future. Specifically, the agriculture sector, for which John deere, a popular manufacturer of farming equipment, already announced an autonomous tractor at CES 2022.

This will be possible thanks to an autonomous grow kit, composed of a hardware and software package that uses both machine learning with the autonomous control functions of the GPS-driven steering wheel. With this kit, therefore, it is not only possible for farmers to get off the tractor. They can also be off the field they are cultivating, and control the vehicle from a distance via their smartphone.

Despite the fact that we have already seen autonomous vehicles on the streets of some cities, and even on highways, although mainly in tests, there was no news of progress in this regard in agriculture. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t happening. Nothing is further from reality. So much so that in the world of agriculture there have been more solid advances than in other sectors in terms of autonomous driving.

There are not only areas in which companies dedicated to equipment for the rural world are more advanced than technological ones. It has also outperformed, in some cases, even auto manufacturing companies. Of course, this is not only due to its commitment to research and technology. Also to the fact that the tasks to be carried out, although they are not simple, are free in most cases of complications. Plowing and sowing are complicated tasks, but the driving required to do them is quite simple: it consists of following straight lines and turning without having to worry about whether there are other vehicles or pedestrians around.

That is why John Deere, among other companies, has been able to automate many aspects of driving in agriculture tasks over the past decades. As a result, they already have autonomous driving systems that use GPS to locate and guide tractors. To do this, farmers first have to map and mark the boundaries of their fields. They can do this using beacons or driving around the edges of each terrain. Once one of the two things is done, the software proposes a route to follow. The driver can then monitor the route from the cab of his tractor and correct it if necessary.

This, the system AutoTrac, It was what John Deere had until now, for almost two decades, and with the novelties that it has brought to CES they go further: farmers do not even need to be present in the field to control plowing or sowing. The new kit features six pairs of stereo cameras, that capture a 360-degree view of what is around the tractor in every moment. The images they obtain are analyzed by various machine vision algorithms, allowing unexpected obstacles to be detected.

These images are then sent to a center where there are operators in charge of checking if the obstacle located is a false positive or if the problem has solved itself. If it is really a problem, these operators send the farmer a message through a warning sent to his mobile phone. The farmer can then decide what to do, whether to set up a new route or check on the problem in person. Of course, the system is prepared to know, for example, to detect birds, to know that they fly and that it is not necessary to stop for it. But it will if there are other animals in the field, such as dogs.

Of course, the system is not yet capable of managing all aspects of work with the tractor. Today John Deere is focused on tillage tasks. This is, in preparing the soil for crops, either by removing the soil, removing remains of previous crops or shredding them and integrating them in the field so that the land has more nutrients. It is work that is not done when the harvest is approaching, so farmers can do it while doing other more urgent tasks.

John Deere is going to sell the package as optional equipment for installation in several of its advanced tractor models most recent. Among them, with the John Deere 8R Tractor. 8R Tractor, TruSet. Of course, it is unknown what price it will have, or if it will have annual subscription models.

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