Driverless Vehicles Are Here . . . On the Farm, Anyway

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

There’s a widespread belief that driverless technology won’t be useful until it’s able to safely guide a passenger car anywhere in the country with no one paying attention to the wheel. This isn’t true. The technology will almost certainly start with easy applications and then move into harder and harder ones. Maybe it will start with shuttle buses on fixed routes. Then delivery vehicles in restricted geographic areas. Then long-haul trucks on highways. Etc.

One of the first places to look for driverless technology is on farms. They are, obviously, very restricted geographic areas, and safety concerns are minimal. Sure enough, automated farming vehicles are nearly here:

Robots are taking over farms faster than anyone saw coming. The first fully autonomous farm equipment is becoming commercially available, which means machines will be able to completely take over a multitude of tasks. Tractors will drive with no farmer in the cab, and specialized equipment will be able to spray, plant, plow and weed cropland. And it’s all happening well before many analysts had predicted thanks to small startups in Canada and Australia.

….In Saskatchewan, the first commercially sold autonomous tractors made by Dot are hitting fields this spring. The Dot units won’t be completely on their own this year — farmers who bought equipment as part of a limited release are required to watch them at all times. But after this trial run, the producers may be able to let the equipment run on its own starting next year. That will open up a lot of time for the growers who will no longer need to sit behind the steering wheel.

Interestingly, a farmer in Australia who uses a SwarmFarm weed killer, says that the robotic sprayer is so efficient that he uses 80 percent less pesticide than he used to. In other words, robots are not only cheaper than human labor, they’re better too. We’ll be seeing a lot more of that in the next few decades.

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate