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Deere Unveils First Self-Driving Tractor

Deere's autonomous tractor can be controlled by a smartphone.
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Deere revealed its first self-driving tractor that farmers can control with a smartphone at CES 2022.

The company created autonomous equipment including a box that is placed on the front and one on the back of existing agricultural machinery such as the 8R 410 row crop tractor that has a total of 12 stereo cameras and an Nvidia GPU.

The result is that a farmer controls the John Deere tractor from a smartphone and is able to watch the equipment work through a field from a live video, according to a CNET article.

For the past 20 years Deere's tractors have steered themselves as long as a farmer was present. 

There are limits to the capabilities of the new autonomous equipment - the tractor can only till fields or turn over the earth from a recent harvest. 

The equipment is also expensive  - a standard 8R tractor and the 2430 chisel plow will cost over $500,000, the article said. 

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The company said it plans to lease out the tractors with the new autonomous equipment already attached. 

A price had not been disclosed, but Jahmy Hindman, chief technology officer for Deere & Co., said it will likely be "significant" such as a maximum of 10% of the total equipment cost or as much as $50,000. 

The new equipment will be available to a limited number of farmers who have steady internet connectivity. These 10 to 50 farmers will rent a full tractor and chisel plow.

In the future farmers will be able to use their own tractors that will be retrofitted with the new technology. 

Instead of using lidar, Deere uses 12  stereo cameras for its self-driving technology.

In August the company acquired Bear Flag Robotics, a Silicon Valley-based ag tech startup for $250 million, so that it can deploy other tech in the future such as radar, ultrasonic, lidar and other technologies because operating in standing crops remains a challenge.

The tractor can even refuel itself, a task that is necessary every eight hours. A button in the app can alert the tractor to move to a preset location in the field, similar to robot vacuums heading to its charging station.