John Deere has launched a production autonomous tractor at CES2022
John Deere has launched a production autonomous tractor at CES 2022.

John Deere has revealed a fully autonomous tractor that’s ready for large-scale production at a launch event during CES 2022 at Las Vegas, United States.

In recent years the Consumer Electronics Show has transformed from showcasing bigger and better televisions and home technology into a display of next-wave innovation from all fields that will shape 2022 and the economy of tomorrow. The organisers report that the 2022 event features a plethora of exhibitors advancing two of the most compelling current technology megatrends: intelligent automation and the evolution of the metaverse.

The global profile of CES made it the natural place for Deere’s to launch its new machine. Available to farmers later in 2022, it combines the company’s 8R410 Tractor, a TruSet-enabled chisel plough, GPS guidance system and new advanced technologies.

The autonomous tractor serves a specific purpose: allowing farmers to feed a growing population with less available land and skilled labour. All while working through the variables inherent in farming like changing weather conditions and climate, variations in soil quality, and the presence of weeds and pests. All of these factors impact a farmer’s ability to farm during the most critical times of the year.

Three sets of stereo cameras mounted on the front weight block of Deere's new autonomous tractor
Three sets of stereo cameras mounted on the front weight block of Deere’s new autonomous tractor.

Deere’s autonomous tractor has 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. The autonomous tractor is also continuously checking its position relative to a geofence, ensuring it’s operating where it’s supposed to, and is accurate to within 25mm.

To use the autonomous tractor, farmers only need to transport the machine to a field and configure it for autonomous operation. Using John Deere Operations Center Mobile, they can swipe from left to right to start the machine, and 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 Operations Center Mobile provides access to live video, images, data and metrics, and allows a farmer to adjust speed, working depth, and more. In the event of any job-quality anomalies or machine-health issues, farmers will be notified remotely and can make adjustments to optimise performance.

A limited number of tractors will be delivered to North American customers this year. In the coming years, John Deere will work on the availability of the technology for further machines and attachments.

Deere says the launch of the equipment in Europe is currently not planned as safety regulations currently do not allow the use of autonomous vehicles. The company says it will require revisions to EU Regulation 167/2013 covering the approval and market surveillance of agricultural and forestry vehicles, and those are not expected before 2028.

This position is at odds with companies like Naïo Technologies that have achieved approval for full autonomous use of their field robots within the EU by meeting provisions in the European Machinery Directive.