We talked recently about new technological advances that are impacting the agriculture industry, specifically in terms of drone pollination. Now, we’re expanding on that topic by covering another area of technology that’s helpful to agricultural growers across the country: driverless tractors.
The Future of Farming?
While driverless tractor technology isn’t exactly new – in fact, the very first concept for it was developed back in the 1940s – it’s something that’s been gaining more attention over the last few years.
CNH Industrial revealed their autonomous tractor concept at the 2016 Farm Progress Show and last year, John Deere revealed their own version at a dealer meeting in Spain. It’s looking more likely that it’s now a matter of when, not if, the use of driverless tractors will become common practice for farmers.
So, why should farmers be excited to embrace this new technology?
Driverless tractors can save farmers time and money
Eventually, farmers will be able to remotely run multiple driverless tractors at the same time, meaning that crops can be sprayed, planted, plowed, and weeded simultaneously without the need for human operators.
And, as technology continues to advance, the expectation is that the autonomous machines will be able to increase precision by using technology to detect early symptoms of deficiencies or infestations well before they might be noticed by humans.
These machines can also help farmers save money on supplies, as one Australian farmer noted that he can save 80% of his chemical costs by using new robot spraying machines. In speaking to the Los Angeles Times, he said, “The savings on chemicals is huge, but there’s also savings for the environment from using less chemicals and you’re also getting a better result in the end.”
Driverless tractor technology has fewer regulations than other driverless technology
While, of course, safety is a concern regarding the implementation of autonomous tractors, there are fewer concerns about this technology compared to filling our roads and interstates with driverless cars. This is why it is likely farmers will see this technology available before we see driverless cars used regularly.
Most of the driverless tractors on the market are made to move slowly, some even topping out at 10 mph. Likewise, these machines are constrained to fewer tasks than would be needed for mass-produced autonomous vehicles.
And, because they’ll be driving out in rural fields, there is less to worry about in terms of unpredictable factors like pedestrians, which is just one of the reasons that it will be years (or decades) until we see driverless cars on the road. Fortunately for farmers, the wait for autonomous tractors is over.
We’ll continue to monitor the development of new autonomous tractor technology and will post about new updates as they become available.