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This is the first self-driving John Deere

Posted by Bill Griffith  August 15, 2011 03:50 PM

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(Kinze Manufacturing). Click photo for larger version.

We've heard about the research into developing smart roads and smart cars that will let us get in, program our destination, and then sit back and enjoy the ride. It still sounds a long way away, especially when we can't even maintain our old, not-so-smart roads.

Well, what if you don't need a road?

That's what Jaybridge Robotics in Cambridge did with Kinze Manufacturing, a maker of grain carts in Williamsburg, Iowa. By fitting laser and radar systems similar to those on many luxury cars — along with proprietary software — Jaybridge made a self-driving tractor that can perform many common farming tasks.

Starting in the lab and then moving into the field (neat choice of words there), Jaybridge and Kinze simulated real-world obstacles such as fences, stand pipes, wandering farm animals, and other vehicles.

The result: a self-driving farming system that can, with minimal oversight, plant, fertilize, weed, and harvest row crops.

This may not be the best of news to my 4-year-old grandson, who learned the names of the entire John Deere tractor lineup and can't wait to graduate from driving his battery-powered tractor to the real thing.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
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