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Deere to market fully autonomous tractor for farm tillage

The world’s largest farm equipment maker, Deere and Co., said on Tuesday it will begin sales later this year of a “fully autonomous tractor that’s ready for large-scale production,” but limited for the moment to tillage.

“The machine combines Deere’s 8R tractor, TruSet-enabled chisel plow, GPS guidance system, and new advanced technologies,” said Deere, which unveiled the autonomous tractor at a consumer technology show in Las Vegas.

Based in western Illinois, Deere said the tractor would increase productivity while overcoming any shortages of skilled labor. The autonomous tractor uses 12 stereo camera to identify obstacles and a “deep neural network” to decide whether to stop or continue movement. GPS technology keeps the tractor within field boundaries and assures accurate movement down to the inch.

“To use the autonomous tractor, farmers only need to transport the machine to a field and configure it for autonomous operation,” said a company release. “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 autonomous tractor drives in a field with no driver in the cab
Photo credit: John Deere

Deere did not list a price of the tractor, chisel plow and autonomous equipment. Tractors in the 8R series have from 230 horsepower to 410 horsepower and carry retail prices of $272,000 to $427,000.

“Deere’s fully autonomous tractor has been tested on farms in the Midwest and many farmers are already accustomed to riding in tractors with assisted features,” said Fierce Electronics in a review. “The adjustment to full autonomy could be routine.”

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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