An AI-powered autonomous tractor that can drive itself and harvest crops could change farming forever – but not everyone is happy about it.
Farming tech company John Deere has unveiled a 22-ton robot tractor at CES 2022 that can navigate and plow fields without the need for a driver.
The tractor, which can be controlled using a smartphone app, is packed full of smart AI technology just like the kind used in Tesla vehicles. This lets it navigate the countryside on its own and identify obstacles, ensuring it stays within the boundaries of a field.
Meanwhile, the app will issue farmers with notifications whenever something goes wrong.
Minnesota farmer Doug Nimz was the first farmer to try out the autonomous tractor. Over the last four years, his farm has been a testing ground for the vehicle, which has enabled John Deere engineers to continuously improve it.
Nimz said he was shocked at how well it worked. "It takes a while to get comfortable because… first of all, you're just kind of amazed just watching it.
"When I actually saw it drive… I said, 'Well, goll, this is really going to happen. This really will work.'"
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The announcement immediately sparked concern and outrage from farmers fearing for their jobs.
"What the hell would I do if they drove themselves? Paperwork?," asked one farm worker.
Another farmer, Adam Bissell, said he simply wasn't up for it. He wrote on Twitter: "Self driving tractor? Not interested. Driving the tractor and being in the field [is] the most enjoyable part of this job."
Some are bit more receptive, however. "So disagree, operating equipment is the worst part of farming as far as I am concerned. It's the type of drudgery automation is made for," said farmer Lorne McClinton.
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AI is increasingly being used to automate manual jobs and reduce the need for human staff at businesses.
Last year, the newest version of a burger-flipping robot called Flippy was unveiled that can fry chicken wings and chips without any humans involved.
On top of that, pubs are anticipating a wave of automation as landlords opt for beer-fetching droids that are cheaper than waiters. Machine servants are set to become "the norm" in restaurants and hotels, according to the Robots of London founder Adam Kushner.
"I believe that humans will lose their jobs to robots purely because they are more efficient, are cost saving, and are doing jobs that many people find boring or monotonous," he told the Daily Star last year.
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