John Deere, the world's largest farming implements producer, just unveiled a self-driving tractor to plow America's acreage by day or night without a driver.
Unveiled at the Consumer Technology Association (CES) convention 2022 in Las Vegas, John Deere have said that the 8R autonomous tractor will "enable farmers to place seeds, spread nutrients, and harvest their crops without having to touch the steering wheel."
It's a technological revolution that's been creeping up on us all, with the introduction first of lane assist, auto parallel parking, and then of the self-driving modes on various makers like Tesla.
For a tractor, there are no intersections, pedestrians, tall buildings to block GPS signals, traffic, or balls rolling into the road, and so an autonomous vehicle has much less to contend with.
As large and segmented as America's hinterlands are, farmers often have to plough, cultivate, seed, spray, and harvest many thousands of acres on separate paddocks miles away from each other. With an autonomous tractor, they can plow one field robotically, and another the old-fashioned way, giving farmers more time to do more sensitive work.
"The driverless tractors are equipped with six pairs of cameras that work like human eyes and can provide a 360-degree image," AP reports. "When filtered through computer algorithms, the tractor is able to determine where it is in the field and will abruptly stop if there is anything unfamiliar in its path."
Given changing climatic conditions, the opportunity to double or triple the labor inputs to capitalize on short periods of ideal temperature and moisture can mean thousands of dollars more per acre for farmers.