This John Deere Tractor Doesn’t Need A Driver

While most autonomous vehicles are meant to travel over the highway, John Deere’s new 8R tractor shown at the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show will likely only traverse fields and it will do so without a human at the wheel.

The tractor is slated to be available to farmers in late 2022 and has six pairs of stereo cameras to generate a 360 degree view of obstacles. It also uses location technology, including GPS, to ensure it is where it is supposed to be with a claimed accuracy of 1 inch. You can see a video about the beast below.

According to press releases, the company has been testing the technology for at least 3 years. It is controlled by — what else? — a smartphone app that can set it to its task and monitor it remotely, allowing the farmer to monitor and control the operation from anywhere. The company claims it can prepare 325 acres in 24 hours.

In the video, it mentions you can let the tractor run 24 hours a day, too, so we presume the cameras don’t need ambient lighting to work. We imagine that the price of this will be staggering and — honestly — if you’ve done any sort of robotics, it doesn’t seem like a very difficult task. You have to wonder if there will be cheaper competitors if the usually- conservative farming industry starts to adopt the technology. Of course, big competitors such as Case IH have either announced plans or demonstrated pilot programs to do similar things.

Not that there aren’t already driverless tractors available from the likes of Monarch and Fendt, and even companies that will refit existing equipment such as The Autonomous Tractor Corporation and Bear Flag Robotics.

Usually when we are talking about John Deere is it related to their reticence to let people repair tractors. If you are thinking about building your own, you might want to start your research with this project.

50 thoughts on “This John Deere Tractor Doesn’t Need A Driver

  1. Old farmer joke:
    “Did you know that John Deere is coming out with a tractor that doesn’t have a steering wheel or a seat?”
    “Yeah, it’s for farmers who have lost their ass in farming and don’t know which way to turn!”

  2. So…
    I wonder how long before some hacker downloads a new set of directions and the tractor obediently unhitches the implement and drives off to a waiting tractor trailer.

  3. “In the video, it mentions you can let the tractor run 24 hours a day, too, so we presume the cameras don’t need ambient lighting to work.”

    The tractor in the video is lit up like a Christmas tree, farmers have harvested late into the night for several generations. They only stop harvesting when the dew starts making the grain damp.

  4. I saw this at CES. John Deere comes every year. Autonomous tractors are not new, but previously required more infrastructure to maintain their guidance.

    Unfortunately, John Deere has horrible DRM. If you buy a part from an unauthorized source, and it doesn’t send the right cryptographic ID, a alarm goes off in the cab every minute. The competition understands and uses right-to-repair as a selling point.

    Anyone who thinks they can leave a tractor running for “24 hours” hasn’t used one. Machines that push dirt around need a lot of care. You can’t really just leave one to take care of itself.

      1. Driving the tractor is 1 task of the driver. Operating the implement (the machine it drags along) is another task. GPS systems are profitable because of precision/efficiency improvements. But it also helps the drivers’ focus on the implements operation mostly (instead of both). After all, that’s why the tractor is out there.

        What is this autonomous tractor going to do when one of the plow blades falls off? These machines are incredibly powerful, especially the “vast tractor” ones like the 7 or 8 series. These machines can easily tear other machines apart if sometime gets stuck or malfunctions. That sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

    1. It’s not about laziness but the race to the bottom. Humanity advances when things like food become easier and cheaper to produce.
      Industry has been putting people out of jobs since, well since industry existed since that is the whole point of it. Whether that’s a good thing or not is a matter of debate. But its ignorant to think the people who work their asses off to put food on your table while getting less and less reward for it each year are lazy.

      1. As technology reduces labor we need to learn to somehow redistribute the remaining labor and re-value it so that a person can make a good living off of fewer hours.

        The alternatives are massive unemployment or just working our lives away on jobs whose only value is “well we didn’t automate it so that you would have a job”.

    2. Its the labour shortage. All the farmers want the same 24/7 workforce when the ‘day is good’ or the ‘time is right’ and the demand for labour is low when the day is bad. Therefore the labour market cannot meet the demands of the farmer.. easily. Thankfully there are great networks in farming, but autonomy will make this a little easier for mundane but time consuming tasks.

  5. It may not need a driver, but it probably needs a manufacturer’s-authorized service technician with manufacturer’s-authorized equipment to change an oil filter.

    And I’m curious as to what error code will be generated the first time it encounters a ground-hog’s den and breaks an axle.

  6. This thing won “worst in show” at CES 2022 and I’m surprised HaD didn’t pick that up:


    Paul’s Pick — John Deere 8R autonomous tractor

    John Deere’s new, fully autonomous tractor adds a host of new attack vectors and potential problems to an already rich security target. “One of the things that concerns me about this fully autonomous tractor, as with any autonomous device that’s internet-connected and software-driven, is that you create the potential for software attacks becoming cyber-physical,” Paul said. “From a critical infrastructure, national security perspective, a fully autonomous, software-controlled, remotely-controllable tractor could be be simply bricked. Rendered useless.”

    “Any company that makes any software, let alone multi-ton, robotic equipment that’s constitutes millions of lines of code is going to encounter security problems… but you still need to deal with it. And that comes down to your security culture. That’s why Deere ends up at the Security loser in this years show.

    — Paul Roberts


      1. Sure. Cause we can just pop in walmart and pick one up like any old IoT device.
        Can’t we just accept that every IoT device is just a flaw waiting to happen?
        Big vendors, small vendors, everyone has suffered from a breach due to bad software.

    1. I’m not worried about this tractor being “simply bricked. Rendered useless.”
      I’m worried about it being driven out of the field, onto a road, and into nearby houses, by someone trying to make a really good point about IoT security risks.

    1. “why is your autonomous tractor lurching about the field like that?”
      “people in sub-saharan africa are outbidding each other on amazon turk for the right to drive it for sixty eight cents an hour.”

  7. Yeah. Internet connected, software driven, not even repairable without parts and tools that are themselves crippled by software. So let’s make our entire food production system depend on this? One decently large solar flare later and the next generation of food gathering technology will be sharp rocks and pointy sticks.

    1. Indeed.
      A farmer is probably feeding somewhere between 1000 and 10000 people, and yet there is apparently such a high pressure on the price of their products that they have to struggle to make a decent living, while at the same time handling a lot of expensive equipment.

      When is it enough?

  8. I guess Deer going to get less business with this thing. Who hell wants something hyper dependent on the manufacture to keep operating, while you’re on a shoe string budget. Your better off using someone’s great great grandfather manually driven Tactor and keep keen eye on what direction you’re driving.

    You’d be better off getting parts made for antique than this robotic moneypit.

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