John Deere says its autonomous tractor is ready for production

The self-driving Deere 8R can operate without a pilot when covering a field.

John Deere

Agricultural hardware giant and scourge of right-to-repair advocates everywhere John Deere is ready to show off its finished, fully-autonomous tractor. Here at CES, the company is saying that this unit is going to be put into large-scale production, and will be made available to farmers later this year. When in use, a farmer can set the hardware to work and then leave it running, allowing them to tend to vital work elsewhere. The idea, so the company says, is to help make farming more efficient and more robust in the face of ever-increasing demand and dwindling resources.

A progress video from John Deere's autonomous team from the start of 2020.

John Deere’s ambitions in this space have been running for some time, and the company was showing off an autonomous tractor at this show in 2019. Back then, it said that its technology — which combine land-based sensors and GPS — was accurate to around 2.5 cm, or 0.9 inches. This new model has six pairs of stereo cameras around the vehicle to help with object detection, which is then processed by a local neural network. This, combined with the aforementioned GPS technology, enables it to maintain its position within a geofence around an individual field.

Image of the sensor bay on top of John Deere's autonomous tractor
John Deere

The model that Deere is showing off combines a Deere 8R Tractor, a TruSet-enabled chisel plow and the secret sauce contained within its navigation technology. It says that all a farmer needs to do is drive it to the start of a field, configure it for autonomous operation and then “swipe from left to right to start the machine.” Its progress can then be monitored from a mobile device, which can receive live video, data and metrics, allowing a farmer to adjust speed and drill depth from their phone.

We don't yet know how much the hardware is going to cost, but we can imagine that there will be plenty of interest from major farming companies both in the US and abroad as they look to cut costs on labor and search for efficiencies any way that they can.

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