Hype or hope? When cars and tractors operate themselves

Hype or hope? When cars and tractors operate themselves

Kinze autonomous harvest system

Whenever I read about autonomous cars and how they are projected to disrupt the auto market in coming decades, I’m left to wonder about the benefits of autonomous vehicles. In farm vehicles like tractors, combines, and self-propelled sprayers, I get it. Making them autonomous can reduce labor costs, make farm work easier, make crop input application more accurate, and reduce fuel costs by finding the shortest path and the tractor settings’ sweet spot.

But with cars, the benefits have seemed more elusive. After all, the sole purpose of cars is to transport people. And what’s the benefit of driving around when you might not even have passengers to transport?

TU-Automotive helped to bring the benefits home for me in a newsletter it sent out today. The newsletter linked to a report by Bloomberg analyst Brian Johnson who projects that US auto sales may drop about 40% in the next 25 years because of shared driverless cars, forcing mass-market producers such as General Motors and Ford to slash output.

TU-Automotive summed up how Johnson outlined the creation of four vehicle categories: traditional cars and trucks driven by individuals for work or in rural areas; “family autonomous vehicles,” owned by individuals and shared by a single family; “shared autonomous vehicles” that would be “robot taxis” summoned by smartphone; and “pooled shared autonomous vehicles” that accommodate multiple riders, like a bus or a van.

In an article we posted a few weeks ago, business author Russ Banham talked about beginnings of this. Of how Uber and Zipcar are delivering cars right to your door to makes it easier to rent cars or get a taxi. Next, say goodbye to the taxi driver if reports like Johnson’s come to fore.

Of course, all this reading led me back to autonomous farm vehicles and how their applications will play out. Here are some links to bring autonomy back home to farming.

Farms can benefit from autonomous tractors, TorcRobotics

From precision farming to autonomous farming: How commodity technologies enable revolutionary impact, RoboHub

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