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The future of driverless tractors came into closer focus this fall as Kinze unveiled an autonomous tractor system that aims to improve efficiency as farming operations gain in complexity.
Better than human
Kinze loaned the system to three farmers for three weeks for use in their fields. The company installed some electronic equipment in each farmer’s combine and provided John Deere 8530 tractors already equipped with Kinze’s autonomous equipment.
The farmers all said the system worked well for them. “It was easier to use than I expected—a piece of cake,” reported Joe Krupps, Galesburg, Ill. “The tractor followed me close and was always there when I needed it. It frees up a person to do something else.”
At the media event, the precision and agility of the system was demonstrated when the combine operator drove in a circle while unloading. The grain cart remained precisely positioned under the combine auger. Not a kernel of corn was spilled. “I don’t think a human could do that without spilling some corn,” Krupps adds.
The human element is one of the reasons for developing the autonomous system, reports Susanne Kinzenbaw Veatch, Kinze vice president and chief marketing officer. Skilled labor to drive large, sophisticated equipment is getting difficult to find. Plus, the system provides consistent accuracy 24 hours a day if needed.