John Deere unveils fully autonomous 8R tractor
“The global population is expected to grow from about 8 billion to nearly 10 billion people by 2050, increasing global food demand by 50%,” says Jahmy Hindman, chief technology officer at John Deere. “Farmers must also work through the variables like changing weather conditions, variations in soil quality, and managing weeds and pests – all of which impact the ability to farm during critical times of the year.”
Equipped with six pairs of stereo cameras that enable 360° obstacle detection and distance calculation, the images are passed through a network that classifies each pixel in about 100 milliseconds. This determines whether the machine continues or stops. In addition, the machine continuously checks its position relative to a geofence to ensure it is operating where it is supposed to, within less than an inch of accuracy.
“The autonomous 8R tractor collected more than 50 million images during in-field testing for the last three years,” says Willy Pell, VP autonomy and new ventures at John Deere.
Once transported to the field, a farmer configures the machine for autonomous operation. Using the John Deere Operations Center mobile app, a simple swipe starts the autonomous tractor. While it works, a farmer can leave the field to focus on other tasks, yet still monitor the machine remotely from a mobile device. Access to live video, images, data, and metrics allows a farmer to adjust speed, depth, and more.
Should an anomaly or an issue appear in the field, a farmer will be alerted and be able to adjust, so the machine’s performance is optimized. The autonomous 8R tractor can prep 325 acres in 24 hours.
“The autonomous 8R tractor is doing something that was once thought impossible,” says Julian Sanchez, director, emerging technology for John Deere. “This machine is creating a digital footprint of the farm.”
Deere says the autonomous 8R tractor will be available later this year.