Fully Autonomous Deere Debuts

January 6, 2022

During a press conference at CES 2022, John Deere revealed a fully autonomous tractor that's ready for large-scale production. The machine combines Deere's 8R tractor, TruSet-enabled chisel plow, GPS guidance system, and new advanced technologies. The autonomous tractor will be available to farmers later this year.

The autonomous tractor serves a specific purpose: feeding the world. The global population is expected to grow from about 8 billion to nearly 10 billion people by 2050, increasing the global food demand by 50 percent. Furthermore, farmers must feed this growing population with less available land and skilled labor, and work through the variables inherent in farming like changing weather conditions and climate, variations in soil quality and the presence of weeds and pests. All of these factors impact a farmer's ability to farm during the most critical times of the year.

In many ways agriculture has been driving the technology industry forward for more than a century.

From overcoming sticky Midwest soil with an innovative steel plow 185 years ago, to launching its first two tractors in 1918, John Deere has helped lead the way.

"You fast forward a century from those first tractors and you'll find some of the most advanced robotic machines are being used on the farm to feed the world," said Jahmy Hindman, Chief Technology Officer at John Deere. "If you visit a farm, you'll see as much technology in the field as you will in Silicon Valley."

Hindman, speaking at CES 2022 in Las Vegas where John Deere revealed an autonomous tractor, told attendees today's technology is paved with advancements from the past, adding "advanced technology and innovation has always been on the farm."

He highlighted the company's many advancements in technology, including precision farming and self-steering machines that use GPS. Innovations that are now more than 20 years old.

"This precise location-sensing technology (already) enables farmers to place seeds, spread nutrients and harvest their crops without having to touch the steering wheel," he noted. "Without this self-driving technology, farming is incredibly exhausting mentally and physically. GPS technology allows farmers to spend their time in the cab of a tractor looking at the real-time data they are collecting during the job they are doing and making adjustments."

Until recently, agriculture had always been about doing more with more, Hindman noted, more horsepower, more inputs and more acres. But the digital era is changing all of that, he added, and it's coming at a critical time, as labor shortages are making it difficult for farmers to find people to help do the work.

Driverless tractors can help farmers overcome that obstacle and more with their precision technology, making it possible to take on one of the world's biggest challenges—feeding our growing population.

"The world's population is expected to grow from about 8 billion to nearly 10 billion people by 2050, increasing the global food demand by 50 percent," Hindman noted. "Farmers must feed this growing world population, and it's our job at John Deere to help them. The future of Agriculture starts now!"

The autonomous tractor has six pairs of stereo cameras, which enables 360-degree obstacle detection and the calculation of distance.

Images captured by the cameras are passed through a deep neural network that classifies each pixel in approximately 100 milliseconds and determines if the machine continues to move or stops, depending on if an obstacle is detected.

The autonomous tractor is also continuously checking its position relative to a geofence, ensuring it is operating where it is supposed to, and is within less than an inch of accuracy.

To use the autonomous tractor, farmers only need to transport the machine to a field and configure it for autonomous operation. Using John Deere Operations Center Mobile, they can swipe from left to right to start the machine. While the machine is working the farmer can leave the field to focus on other tasks, while monitoring the machine's status from their mobile device.

John Deere Operations Center Mobile provides access to live video, images, data and metrics, and allows a farmer to adjust speed, depth and more. In the event of any job quality anomalies or machine health issues, farmers will be notified remotely and can make adjustments to optimize the performance of the machine.

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