John Deere Reveals Its Fully Autonomous Tractor at CES 2022

January 18, 2022 by Seth Price

John Deere developed the 8R autonomous tractor, geared toward feeding worldwide hunger.

This year’s CES, the Consumer Technology Association’s innovation event, featured a new autonomous tractor by John Deere. John Deere’s 8R tractor is allegedly ready for full-scale production and can be deployed to farmers later this year. The vision of this tractor is to alleviate world hunger by making it easier to plow fields with very little human intervention.


Meet the 8R Tractor

The 8R can be dropped off in a field and then navigated to plow the field using its onboard GPS. It is equipped with a TruSet chisel plow, allowing the farmer to remotely determine the plow depth and speed.


Artist’s rendering of the 8R Tractor. Image used courtesy of John Deere


The system’s accuracy is designed to know where the tractor is within an inch of its destination. This degree of accuracy means the 8R can plow more land compared to a tractor-driving farmer, who must allow for operator error when choosing how much land to plant.

Besides the navigation, the autonomous tractor reports back to the John Deere Operations Center Mobile. This software package allows the farmer to check up on the process, view plow data, diagnostic data, and field images in real-time.


On-board Cameras

In the early days of tractors, there were many horror stories of people being injured or killed by collisions. Children and pets were also vulnerable, running into the field or getting too close to moving machinery. The farmer has a limited field of view at any given moment, making such accidents more common.


The 8R autonomously plowing a field. Image used courtesy of John Deere


Integrated with the 8R’s control system are six pairs of stereo cameras, providing 360 degrees of obstacle avoidance capability. This is particularly useful when plowing a large field remotely. With the 8R’s arsenal of cameras, the tractor can avoid collisions, constantly scanning and making navigation decisions in all directions.

Each pixel from these cameras is scanned and identified every 100 ms, rapidly decreasing the response time and potentially saving lives. The camera system can determine a large rock from a small child and make the appropriate navigation decisions.


“Feeding the World”

This autonomous tractor could potentially increase productivity as well as decrease the production cost on farms.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there were significantly fewer laborers to plow, plant, and harvest fields. Wages were increased, and some produce rotted on the vine instead of arriving in grocery stores. With an automated tractor, some of these tasks can be performed without the need for an entire workforce, meaning plants can be harvested during harsh weather, pandemics, labor shortages, and other such problems.

In the future, this tractor could tow planters, sprayers, and potentially harvest equipment to fully automate the farming process. Perhaps the tractor could be fitted with sensors to determine soil quality, search for pests and diseases, and select the appropriate sprays to increase yield.

John Deere’s 8R autonomous tractor is the first of many steps in increasing productivity and bringing down the cost of food, alleviating the strain of increased population on food resources.