Last week, Deere & Company unveiled their fully autonomous tractor.
“John Deere’s new 8R tractor uses six pairs of stereo cameras and advanced artificial intelligence to perceive its environment and navigate. It can find its way to a field on its own when given a route and coordinates, then plow the soil or sow seeds without instructions, avoiding obstacles as it goes.
A farmer can give the machine new orders using a smartphone app. Some tractors already operate autonomously but only in limited situations—following a route defined by GPS, for example, without the ability to navigate around obstacles. Others feature limited autonomy that still requires a farmer to sit behind the wheel.”
Jahmy Hindman, Deere’s chief technology officer, says “it's a monumental shift. I think it's every bit as big as the transition from horse to tractor.””
Kevin Kenney, an agricultural engineer tells Wired that the autonomous tractor could ultimately give farmers less control over their operations. And they could become increasingly reliant on Deere, he says, and less able to make critical decisions if they need to rely on an app to tell them what to do.
Ultimately, Kenney says, Deere may not even need farmers, dispatching autonomous tractors to manage large-scale “robotic farms.”
One farmer who tested the tractor says it "would allow me to do two jobs at the same time."