John Deere launches an autonomous tractor

Working in agriculture is vital to feeding the world’s population. In the past, it was possible to achieve enormous increases in efficiency here, among other things through the use of large machines. So far, however, every tractor still has to be controlled by a human driver. Humans no longer plow the field themselves, but still control the machines required for this. In theory, this task could meanwhile also be taken over by intelligent algorithms. In the past there were some prototypes and vision concepts. Now the commercial breakthrough seems to be imminent. Because the global tractor manufacturer John Deere has announced that it will bring an autonomously working tractor onto the market this year. The machine should then be able to plow and sow independently, among other things. The farmer himself can devote himself to other tasks and controls the work of the autonomous tractor with a specially developed app.

Image: John Deere

Artificial intelligence is constantly learning

The technology required for autonomous work is initially based on six stereo cameras that allow a panoramic view. The resulting images are evaluated within milliseconds with the help of artificial intelligence. In this way, possible obstacles are to be recognized in real time. In this case the machine will stop or choose an alternative route. Artificial intelligence has another advantage. Because it is constantly learning new things and can therefore adapt better and better to different soil conditions and climatic conditions. In this respect, the machine can be compared to a human tractor driver. This, too, is constantly gaining experience. At the same time, however, he also has to eat something and sleep at some point. Jon Deere’s autonomous tractor, on the other hand, can theoretically do its work around the clock. The human is only needed to bring the tractor to the field and calibrate it there. Among other things, a virtual fence is set up to ensure that the tractor does not leave the field.


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The technology is not yet allowed to be used in Germany

The autonomous agricultural vehicles are to be sold this year in the United States, among other places. The price has not yet been communicated in more detail. In purely theoretical terms, there should be enormous savings for companies if a human driver is no longer required. Even a comparatively high purchase price would pay for itself quite quickly. For farmers in Germany, the question does not yet arise anyway. Because in this country the legislature prohibits the use of autonomously driving tractors. The main concern is that immature technology could endanger human life. Liability issues have also not yet been clarified. So is the user of the app or the developer of the control technology liable in the event of an accident? Theoretically, such and similar questions in the context of agricultural work should be able to be clarified very quickly. The experience gained there could then be used to derive appropriate rules for the much more complex road traffic.

Via: John Deere

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