Driverless Tractors Will Roll Off John Deere’s Assembly Line This Fall

by Shelby Scott

We might equate hands-free driving with Tesla CEO Elon Musk and the brand’s popular autopilot setting. However, John Deere is where it’s at if you’re looking for driverless tractors. Yes, Outsiders, you read that right. Rather than debuting as cars on American city streets, John Deere will take the driverless tractor to Iowa farm fields this fall.

According to the AP, the driverless tractor will roll off John Deere’s assembly line this fall. The new tech takes the form of a 14-ton vehicle, capable of plowing day or night, with zero supervision required.

The tractor, AP reports, comes from more than a decade’s efforts and marks a milestone for advocates of driverless vehicles. Raj Rajkumar, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and an expert on autonomous vehicles, said, “I’m glad to see their coming out and will stimulate the other technologies.”

That said, the new driverless tractors will cost quite a pretty penny. John Deere hasn’t officially named the cost of the brand new vehicles. But Ben Haber, a company spokesman said the technology has been incorporated with traditional tractors that cost around $500,000.

John Deere Revolutionizes Potential for Autonomous Vehicles

The majority of the population, truthfully, has little use for driverless tractors. Although John Deere’s engineers had an advantage that designers of fully autonomous cars do not. Rajkumar said the driverless tractor poses less of a safety risk.

Tractors, unlike cars, don’t have to account for other tractors (typically), people, or building obstacles. The outlet reports driverless tractors can utilize uninterrupted GPS data to remain on track, compared to cars whose signals become interrupted in navigating cityscapes and tunnels.

More simply, Joel Dawson, a John Deere production director, said, “You aren’t going to see a crosswalk in most cornfields in Iowa or Nebraska.” The jury’s out on other states I guess.

Driverless Tractor Presents Farmers with Significant Advantage

As to the American farmer, the driverless tractors will provide them with multiple advantages.

AP reports that just 2% of Americans cover the nation’s farming industry. Therefore, the small group of people that fill that need face what the outlet called a “chronic” labor shortage. With John Deere’s driverless tractor then, farmers will be able to accomplish multiple tasks at once.

Several include working multiple fields at one time, leaving the field to grab supplies, or just spend time with family. The outlet reports that driverless tractors will also enable American farmers to plant, fertilize, and harvest more during the peak season.

Ryan Berman, an expert on the industry from Iowa State University, gave perspective on the topic.

“If I don’t get this field tilled today and it rains tonight, that could mean we don’t get the field planted for another week and that has real cost implications in a lot of operations.”

He continued, “If you can move an extra 80 or 100 acres into that optimal window, that can be worth thousands of dollars every year, probably tens of thousands.”