Monday, January 13, 2020

"Swarms of Teeny Robo-Tractors Will Outmaneuver Tesla’s Driverless Cars"

Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have dazzled stockholders and consumers with visions of fully autonomous vehicles that can wander out to work as robotaxis when not needed by their owners. But this version of a no-humans-required future of transportation is likely still years, perhaps even decades away. Instead of sleek Teslas or robot Ubers, the first truly driverless vehicles are more likely to look like James’ tractors: rolling placidly over a cornfield at a max speed of 7 mph.

The early version of James’ tractor, called the Rabbit, disperses seeds for cover crops, which farmers plant in between their cash crops to improve soil health. Other early versions of small autonomous farm robots focus on dispensing fertilizer, mowing and slashing, and weeding. Often they can be outfitted with different attachments so that the same tractors perform different tasks.

These small autonomous tractors won’t revolutionize transportation, but they do aim to solve an important problem in agriculture.