Why Driverless Tractors Suddenly Seem Inevitable
May 06, 2015
Driverless tractors and other autonomous farm equipment probably sounds like they belong in a futuristic science-fiction novel – not as a serious technology conversation in 2015. But get ready, it’s probably going to be a reality sooner than you think.
That’s because earlier today, parent company Daimler automotive corporation announced its Freightliner “Inspiration Truck” will be the first autonomous commercial truck to drive on American roads. According to Car and Driver blog, it comes equipped with a front radar sensor, stereoscopic cameras and other sensors that help the truck situate itself on the road. The truck can read road signs and traffic signals on its own – not to mention drive in a way that optimizes fuel economy.
Drivers are still present in these vehicles – they have the option to drive the vehicle or engage the autonomous mode.
“What if the driver could do whatever he wants?” Freightliner asks in this proof-of-concept video. “His duties would be redefined. He would become a logistics manager while driving.”
Daimler claims this automation is good for the driver, too: “Measurements of brain currents (EEG) demonstrated that driver drowsiness decreases by about 25 percent when the truck is being operated in autonomous mode, and the driver all the while pursuing other meaningful operations.”
Now think about a tractor. It’s not barreling down the highway at 80 mph. (Well, with one notable exception!) It’s not dealing with road signs and traffic signals. (Not while it’s in the field, anyway.) Autosteer technology already has us part of the way there. Is it that far-fetched to imagine a fully autonomous tractor on the market in a few years?