Self-driving cars by Google can already be spotted on Californian roads. Thanks to the radar on the roof and custom software, the vehicles may drive from the starting point to the destination point autonomously, without the supervision of a human driver.
Google cars are still being tested in California, and they are to become available commercially in the U.S. after appropriate amendments in the Highway Code are introduced in 2016. At the same time, we are going to see another revolution of this kind, this time in agriculture.
The evolution of the tractor
Driverless tractors are the agricultural equivalent of Google cars. Work on this technology started as early as in the 1950′. Ford Motor Company produced a prototype of such a machine. It was called the Sniffer, and required installing underground cables all over the area. The idea was shelved due to the fact that the cost of the required infrastructure would be higher than the profits from the plantations. A few other manufacturers of farming vehicles took up similar projects in the 20th century, but the real revolution in the segment started a short time ago.
A revolution is coming
The idea of driverless tractors made a comeback in the early 21st century. Thanks to the GPS, scanning of plantations with lasers and crop monitoring using satellites, it became possible to create ultramodern farming equipment which does not require a driver to operate it. Advanced testing of those machines, which are going to transform the agricultural practice, are under way. Safety issues remain unsolved, though. The producers aim at ensuring absolute safety of all humans and animals in the proximity of the driverless vehicles.
Self-driving tractors belong to the area of “prevision farming”, or an approach whose goal is to maximize crops and reduce cost. Using the information from satellite pictures, weather sensors, sensors measuring the quantity of minerals in the soil, and other equipment, it will be possible to calculate the perfect quantity of fertilizers, pesticides and water necessary to produce high yield at the lowest cost. This helps economize resources and human labor, and benefits the natural environment.