- John Deere has officially unveiled its first commercially available, fully autonomous tractor at this week’s CES convention in Las Vegas.
- The US farm equipment manufacturer will begin shipping the driverless version of its 8R row crop tractor during the second half of the year.
- Deere is yet to decide if it will sell units outright, lease them, or offer them as part of a subscription package so farmers can upgrade as hardware and software is updated, chief technology officer Jahmy Hindman told Reuters.
Why it matters:
John Deere is just one of a host of farm equipment makers and agtech startups bringing robotics to traditional machinery in order to boost farm productivity in the face of rising food demand and dwindling human labor capacity.
Its GPS-guided vehicle boasts six pairs of stereo cameras, allowing for 360-degree obstacle detection and navigation. Images are processed using artificial intelligence to determine if the tractor should continue moving or halt in the presence of a potential obstacle. Geofencing technology keeps the machine working in a defined area set by the farmer, who can configure it using the John Deere Operations Center mobile app.
Last August, John Deere agreed to acquire US tractor automation startup Bear Flag Robotics in a deal worth $250 million. Bear Flag is focused on ‘upfitting’ existing vehicles and machinery to make them autonomous and none of its technology features in the new ‘from-scratch’ 8R model, according to TechCrunch [disclosure: AFN‘s parent company, AgFunder, is an investor in Bear Flag.]