Technology

John Deere takes wraps off autonomous farm tractor

John Deere takes wraps off aut...
The 8R tractor uses artifcial intelligence to avoid collisions
The 8R tractor uses artifcial intelligence to avoid collisions
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The 8R tractor uses artifcial intelligence to avoid collisions
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The 8R tractor uses artifcial intelligence to avoid collisions
The 8R tractor goes into production this year
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The 8R tractor goes into production this year

John Deere has unveiled an autonomous farm tractor capable of working in the field on its own 24 hours a day. Revealed at CES 2022, the 8R tractor is scheduled to go into large-scale production this year.

The popular image of a farmer is usually of some bucolic type that's a holdover from another time. But in the developed world a farmer is more than likely to hold multiple degrees in agricultural science and business management, and have outbuildings full of state-of-the-art technology.

One example of this is the modern tractor, which has evolved from a simple engine used to pull plows into an advanced vehicle that has a climate-controlled cabin that looks like a cross between a luxury SUV and a private jet flight deck, and has all manner of technologies, including GPS, self-driving systems, artificial intelligence, and infinitely variable transmissions.

Some modern tractors can almost drive themselves and now John Deere has taken the almost out of the equation with the 410-bhp 8R. It's not the world's first autonomous tractor. Smaller ones have been built for special applications, but this is one of the first large general purpose models aimed at large-scale production.

The 8R tractor goes into production this year
The 8R tractor goes into production this year

In addition to following a very precise path, the autonomous tractor it must carry out very specific tasks as it goes to prepare the soil, plow, plant, and harvest, and it has to be able to alter its behavior to suit specific crops, soil types, and weather conditions.

According to John Deere, the robotic tractor will lower labor costs and free farmers from having to sit in a cab for up to 18 hours a day. Instead, it can operate 24 hours a day to take advantage of good weather or getting harvests in quickly. Farmers can focuses monitor and adjust the tractor from a handheld device installed with a mobile app that displays live video and real-time relevant data.

The 8R uses six pairs of stereo cameras combined with machine learning that process images in milliseconds to give it all-around obstacle detection. If something unusual is in its path, the tractor can assess the situation and either keep moving or stop and request assistance. As the machine moves, it plots its position relative to a geofence for a claimed accuracy of within an inch.

Not bad for a machine that started out 150 years ago as a steam engine on wheels.

No price has yet to be released for the 8R tractor.

The video below is a replay of the CES 2022 press conference.

John Deere

Source: John Deere

4 comments
4 comments
Demosthenes
Why not three wheels per axle? that would look even more spectacular. And why only 410-bhp, every little sportscar has more ...
windykites
How about dragging ploughs across a field with cables? No tractor required.
paul314
Fields don't generally have pedestrians or other tractors jockeying for position, so it's probably an easier job. Now to go all electric and mount some solar panels on the accessories.
DaveWesely
As someone who was raised on a farm, here is the answer to some of the questions. @Demosthenes Tractors are not built for looks:) The bhp of a tractor is designed for its use. An underutilized ICE is inefficient. Most tractors are operated continuously at half to full throttle. @windykites Uhh, well because most rows are not perfectly straight. How would you reset the cable after each pass if the crop is already up? @paul314 Yep, plus an electric drive would provide a better torque range. My take on the future of farming is autonomous robotics will make the "tractors" smaller. Large tractors are used to minimize the labor costs per acre. If the farmer can operate multiple machines remotely, size is irrelevant. To the point that tractors could be minimized to fit between rows, allowing for use even when the corn is 10 feet high. As for solar panels, meh. Charge the robot tractors at the end row between passes.