John Deere has kicked off the new year by unveiling its ground-breaking autonomous 8R tractor at the CES 2022 technology show (5th-8th Jan in Las Vegas). The agricultural machinery manufacturer expects to roll out its self-driving machine to farms within months. It combines Deere’s 8R tractor, TruSet-enabled chisel plough, GPS guidance system, and new advanced technologies.
“It’s working today and it’s ready for production. This isn’t a concept machine, this isn’t a demo, this is a working machine that will be available later this year to farmers and it will transform their lives.” said an enthusiastic Deanna Kovar – VP Production and Precision Ag Production Systems at John Deere.
With farmers historically spending up to 18 hours a day sitting in a cab, it will come as a huge relief to them that the autonomous 8R tractor does all the driving work on its own. Using John Deere Operations Center Mobile, a farmer can swipe from left to right to start the machine and activate autonomous operations in a field. Via this same remote management interface, farmers have access to live video, data and metrics so that they can stay on top of the 8R’s performance, even adjusting speed where necessary. Should there be any machine health issues notifications are sent automatically to the farmer.
Autonomous Safety Addressed
With six pairs of ‘stereo cameras’ feeding data constantly to its neural networks, the autonomous 8R covers on-farm safety with 360 degree obstacle detection. Images captured by the cameras are passed through a deep neural network that classifies each pixel in approximately 100 milliseconds.
Powered by AI and machine learning the tractor is always improving its performance through new data acquisition gained in the field and also via data fed in remotely by John Deere’s technology experts.
Time saving and performance consistency
Farmers can monitor real time data from the cab rather than focusing on steering the vehicle, in fact they can do that from any other vehicle’s cab or even an office.
“The name of the game is consistency in an inconsistent environment to maximise output.” added Deanna Kovar in the live event streamed from CES 2022 today as she also highlighted three key benefits of autonomous farm vehicles for farmers:
- Timeliness. Machines don’t get tired or call in sick. They operate day and night.
- Efficiency. This tractor enables the farmer to spend their time more efficiently on or off farm.
- Autonomy improves the quality of life for farmers. Working inside a cab is exhausting.
“Now with this autonomous tractor we’re giving back valuable time to farmers.” she said.
Is technology stealing farming jobs?
There will be those who ask about future employment opportunities – won’t these autonomous machines take away agricultural jobs much like the horse or steel plough did? The simple answer coming from the farming sector is ‘no’. In the majority of countries, the average age of a farmer exceeds 55 years of age with little to no demand from young people for agricultural careers. With an ever increasing global population it will be down to smarter farming solutions like these to feed the planet. “Until recently agriculture has been about doing more with more, the last decade is about doing more with less” summarised John Deere’s CTO Jahmy Hindman.