John Deere takes a step into the future with first fully autonomous tractor

by Jo Borras

John Deere revealed its first fully autonomous tractor today at CES 2022, building off of what it says are 20 years of AI development – and it’s not a concept.

The self-driving John Deere is already up and running on select farms and available for sale.

Built on John Deere’s 8R tractor, the new autonomous product features a TruSet-enabled chisel plow, GPS guidance system, and other advanced technologies, including six pairs of stereo cameras that enable 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.

What’s more, John Deere executives spoke of that same neural network being able to differentiate between “weeds” and “crops” on the fly, selecting certain plants for removal while leaving others behind to grow. (Note: I used quotes on “weeds” because a rose is a weed in a cornfield, you know?)

The stated goal of the new John Deere tractor is to help farmers “do more with less.”

At the press conference, company reps discussed how future farmers will feed a growing global population with fewer farm workers and less available farm land while, at the same time, reducing emissions.

This tractor, they say, is a product that will do just that.