Nothing runs like an autonomously driven 'Deere'

Jan. 14, 2022
by Mark Ollig

During the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Jan. 5-8 in Las Vegas, in-person attendance was down 70% from the CES two years earlier, just before COVID-19 struck the world.

A predominantly online digital audience attended this year’s CES.

The Consumer Technology Association, which is the parent of CES, reported a little more than 40,000 people attended in-person during the multi-day event.

It was also noted many of the large tech, telecom, and automotive companies chose not to be represented this year in person, including AT&T, Amazon, T-Mobile, and General Motors.

Also, all attendees and showcase exhibitors were required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to go inside buildings during CES 2022 and to wear facemasks while on the showcase display floors.

Despite low company representation and attendance at Las Vegas, the usual gadgets and technology were seen.

Showfloor exhibits from more than 2,300 companies worldwide showcased technology and devices featuring advances in artificial intelligence, automotive technology, digital health, smart homes, and more.

For me, what stood out was the autonomously-driven John Deere tractor.

Well-known tractor manufacturer, John Deere showcased the first fully-autonomous tractor.

“Nothing Runs Like A Deere … Autonomously,” advertised the company about its self-driving tractor.

John Deere unveiled new technology added to its popular 8R 410 field tractors for full autonomy.

Special equipment, including two boxes containing 12 stereo cameras and an Nvidia GPU (Graphics Processing Unit), are connected inside the tractor cab. These are wirelessly connected to an app (software application) on the farmer's smartphone that allows remote control and monitoring of the tractor and its progress as it tills the field.

Doug Nimz, a fourth-generation farmer from Blue Earth, MN, appeared in a 3-minute, 30-second John Deere video saying he had never expected to see an autonomous tractor in his farming career.

Nimz stated he was initially a “little suspicious” of autonomous technology before using John Deere's machine on his farm.

“When I actually saw it drive ... I said, ‘Well, golly, this is really going to happen. This really will work.’”

Standing in his farmyard, he took out his smartphone, and using an app on his phone, he started the tractor with a swipe of his finger and watched as the tractor began moving to begin the tillage of his 2,000-acre field with no one at the wheel inside the tractor cab.

The video showed the 44,000-pound John Deere 8R 410 tractor tilling rows in Nimz’s cornfield and expertly turning around at the end of a completed tilled row to begin the next.

Nimz said the autonomous tractor “was doing the tillage just as well as I could do myself with no one in the cab.” He went on to say, “I can pull up the app, and I can monitor the tractor, see how much of the field has gotten tilled, I can check the fuel level, see how much of the field is left [to be tilled]. If there is something in the field the tractor isn’t sure about, it will stop and alert me.” This allows him to decide if the object in the field is something the tractor can go around, or if he needs to remove it personally.

“The app gives me all this information,” he said.

Nimz seemed impressed with how he was able to monitor everything very closely.

“The [tractor’s] auto-steer and technology has helped reduce our labor load, which makes my life a lot easier,” he pointed out.

Nimz said autonomy will help “because we will be able to put a tractor out in the field and let it run for 24 hours a day because it’s not manned.”

The video shows the tractor tilling a large field traveling at a reasonable rate of speed.

He noted having an autonomously-driven tractor “will allow me to run my business better because I can just pay closer attention to other tasks.”

The use of an autonomous, self-driving tractor is a “way to get the job done on time, every time, and do it at a high level of quality,” commented Jahmy Hindman, chief technology officer for John Deere.

Nimz is reportedly enthusiastic for autonomous technology to come to other parts of his farm operations.

You can watch the video by going to https://bit.ly/3K5IPZg and clicking on the “Discover What’s New” box.

For me, nothing runs like an autonomously-driven John Deere tractor.

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