Driverless vehicles going on sale in America – for farming

The tractor maker John Deere has announced its autonomous 8R Tractor for large-scale production will go on sale later this year.

The 8R tractor uses what the company calls “StarFire” GPS guidance system, and new advanced technologies to “help farmers grow more for a growing planet”.

The 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.

John Deere explains the 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 John Deere autonomous tractor, a farmer needs to transport the machine to a field and configure it for autonomous operation.

“Using John Deere Operations Center Mobile, he or she can swipe from left to right to start the machine,” the company explains. “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.

“Our 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%.

“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. 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 optimise the performance of the machine.”

The autonomous tractor will be available to farmers in late 2022.

Watch a YouTube video of this here.

(Picture – John Deere)

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