Matt Hamblen at Fierce Electronics reported this past week on an interview introducing a new autonomous tractor. John Deere tractors have been equipped with some automated features for 20 years, but now the company has unveiled a fully autonomous tractor ready for large-scale production that will be on sale in the fall.
What “fully autonomous” means is that a farmer can transport the tractor to a field and configure it for autonomous operation using a mobile app to start the machine and monitor its operation as it moves up and down a field while the farmer performs other tasks. About the only time the farmer must be present is to re-fuel the tractor or respond to the scene if the machine can’t make its way around an unexpected obstacle.
While the machine is plowing or planting, a farmer can leave the field to conduct the myriad jobs on a typical farm.
The tractor will be shown at a CES 2022 booth this week. “This machine is not for demonstration but for real work in real farm fields and with real customers,” said Deanna Kovar, vice president of production and precision agriculture production systems for Deere, in an interview with Fierce Electronics.
Deere provided video of its Deere 8R tractor pulling a Truset-enabled chisel plow as it tills soil after a harvest making it ready for the next season’s crops. A GPS guidance system helps in creating a geofence to keep the tractor on course, accurate to within an inch. The tractor is also equipped with six pairs of stereo cameras for 360-degree obstacle detection and to calculate distances. Images from the cameras are routed through a deep neural network via two Nvidia Jetson GPUs that help classify each pixel in 100 milliseconds to determine if the machine should continue or stop for an obstacle.
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