Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S30

last mile
FERTILE GROUND
Autonomous technology has grown deep roots in the farming sector
BY PETE BIGELOW

Q

uiz time. Among the hundreds
of companies offering grand
visions of self-driving and connected-vehicle futures, name
the one that's had both technologies
deployed in commercial operations for
nearly a decade.
The answer isn't one of the tech giants
from Silicon Valley that pursued self-driving developments following the end of
the DARPA challenges. Nor is it one of
the traditional automakers. The answer is
John Deere.
Farming and mining have served as
formative proving grounds for technologies still waiting to make their mark in the
transportation realm. With deployment of
automated-driving systems in 2002 and
embedded modems in tractors in 2011,
John Deere has been at the forefront in
determining where the rubber meets the
road. Or where the combine meets the
corn.
John Deere says farmers using its
AutoTrac systems and JD Link connected-data platform see tangible returns of
$5 to $15 per acre. For a farmer with 5,000
acres, "those become real numbers real
30

shift * july 2019

fast," says Joel Hergenreter, machine
automation strategy lead for the company.
Using GPS, the company's automated
driving systems have delivered sub-inchlevel accuracy since 2003. That helps
farmers avoid running over their own
crops or leaving fertile soil unplanted.
Connected-vehicle technology helps
tractors talk to each other, not only conveying safety information that keeps
them from bumping into each other, but
data on which fields have been planted
or harvested. Data stored in John Deere's
cloud on when seed was planted, how
deep it was planted, which varieties were
used, when herbicides were sprayed,
can be used to make smarter decisions.
"Farmers have about 40 chances at
building a crop," says Deanna Kovar,
global director of John Deere's Ag & Turf
Division. "It's not an infinite number. You
don't have as quick of an ability to learn
- it might take a whole year to learn and
understand. So data can help accelerate
those learnings."
The particulars of automated systems
in agriculture and automotive are different. Cars use lidar to help detect objects

such as pedestrians and use cameras to
localize themselves from images of road
signs and bridges. That doesn't work
among featureless fields of crops.
But fundamentals remain the same.
Both agriculture and automotive are grappling with the same basic challenge -
how to serve growing populations on a
finite swath of land.
For employees, that can be a rewarding pursuit. Farming and mining served
as stopovers for many engineers who
eventually went to work on self-driving
passenger vehicles, but a few have followed the reverse trajectory. Willy Pell
worked for Google, then moved to Blue
River Technology, a computer vision and
machine learning company acquired by
John Deere in 2017. He's thrilled.
"Self-driving cars are awesome, but I
wake up every morning and say, 'I helped
put food on somebody's plate in a sustainable way,' " he said. "It's very mission driven. And the self-driving world is
extremely populated. There's thousands
of engineers working those problems,
and their impact is relatively small. In ag,
they could have a huge impact." ■



Automotive News Europe - August 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Automotive News Europe - August 2019

Contents
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - Intro
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - Cover1
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - Cover2
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - 3
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - Contents
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - 5
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - 6
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - 7
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - 8
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - 9
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - 10
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Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - 20
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - 21
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Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - 33
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - 34
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - 35
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - 36
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - 37
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - 38
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - Cover3
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - Cover4
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S1
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S2
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S3
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S4
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S5
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S6
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S7
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S8
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S9
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S10
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S11
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S12
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S13
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S14
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S15
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S16
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Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S18
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S19
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S20
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S21
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Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S25
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S26
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S27
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S28
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S29
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S30
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S31
Automotive News Europe - August 2019 - S32
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