The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is often the stage for big announcements from even bigger companies and this year has been no exception, with everybody from software and automation developers to automotive and consumer goods manufacturers vying for the attention of the tech-minded.
Stakeholders in the agricultural industry were greeted with some exciting news from industry leader John Deere when the company announced at the CES that its autonomous tractor is production-ready.
Back in 2019, John Deere showed off its prototype at this very event and now says it’s ready for prime time, revealing that it intends to embark on large-scale production in 2022, with the driverless tractors being available to farmers before the end of the year.
Elektrek calls it “a step into the future” as John Deere’s new vehicle will allow farmers to leave the cabs of their tractors after programming the devices to accomplish the task at hand.
The details are managed by “six pairs of stereo cameras around the vehicle to help with object detection,” says Engadget, combined with GPS technology which “enables it to maintain its position within a geofence around an individual field.” Farmers simply drive it to the field, configure and swipe to start, before they’re able to attend to other tasks and monitor the machine from a mobile device. The system is even capable of amassing data as it works, like specific soil composition, to better tweak algorithms for each application and field.
John Deere’s fully autonomous 8R tractor will most certainly be a big benefit to some farmers, especially those contending with labor shortages, but not everyone is on board. According to Wired,the announcement has stirred debate over the role of AI in farming, specifically that it could ultimately give farmers less control over their own operations.
Said Kevin Kenney, an agricultural engineer quoted by Wired: “I’m all for innovation, and I think John Deere is a helluva company, but they’re trying to be the Facebook of farming.”