You hear a lot about the impending arrival of driverless cars on our roads, but check out the fully driverless tractor in the video above for a glimpse of the future where a ‘driver’ doesn’t really play any part at all.
One difference between tractors and cars is that the car’s purpose is to transport people, whereas the tractor is purely a too, meaning you can do away with the bit where the pesky people normally sit altogether, streamlining the design. Y’know, like how tractor manufacturers historically try to streamline their vehicles. Yeah.
Either way, the end result is probably the best-looking tractor I’ve ever seen and one that doesn’t need human intervention, in theory, to trundle around the fields all day and night. Admittedly, Case IH’s is a long way off (around 2018, at the earliest) and because there’s no space for a person to sit (and take control if necessary), there will be even higher regulatory hurdles to overcome if it ever needs to venture out of the fields and onto public roads between sites.
The plan as it stands for the farmer to operate the vehicle remotely if necessary via a tablet or computer, which is where it differs from self-driving tractors and farming equipment already in use in some places. Like cars, those tractors are far more traditional and require a person to be present in the cab.
Aside of that, it’s fully autonomous and uses GPS and an array of sensors to cruise around avoiding obstacles.
Ploughing the fields isn’t the only place AI’s being put to work in an agricultural production setting though; a Japanese cucumber farmer has built a home-made AI-powered sorting mechanism to classify the farms produce as one of nine different types of cucumber according to thickness, size, color, texture, imperfections and more.
Apparently, the sorting of cucumbers is a trickier business than you might imagine. Now the family-run farm doesn’t need to do it manually anymore and there’s more time to focus on other jobs.
It probably helped that this particular farmer’s son, Makoto Koike, previously worked as an embedded systems designer when putting all the free Google frameworks together for the project.