Build Trust Between Farmer and Autonomous Machine

Dan Miller
By  Dan Miller , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
John Deere introduced its new autonomous 8R this month. The key to using it successfully is the ability of the machine to build trust in the farmer. (DTN photo by Dan Miller)

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (DTN) -- John Deere has just completed its fourth year at the CES (formerly the Consumer Electronics Show). Its fourth year in attendance, John Deere opened the doors to its biggest display yet, with its commercial launch of its autonomous 8R tractor.

Three weeks ago, an 8R tractor (wheeled) made an appearance inside a building John Deere built across the road from the Las Vegas Convention Center. Inside was Deere's first, commercial autonomous tractor.

An interesting question arose about the tractor. It was about trust. How will a farmer come to be willing to start the autonomous tractor operation (swiping left to right on an app) and walk away from a 40,000-pound machine.

DTN/Progressive Farmer had a few minutes to talk that over with Julian Sanchez, director of emerging technology, John Deere Intelligent Solutions Group. Sanchez's first project coming to Deere in 2004 was working on autonomous tractors. For him, then, this is 20 years in the making.

"Trust has to be earned, right? We trust people in our lives, who we know are imperfect. And that's the same thing with a system," said Sanchez. "We know that there's going to be situations that the tractor can't handle; it's going to see things that it's never seen before. And it's going to say, 'Hey, what is this? I don't know what to do.' We assume that there's things that are going to go wrong. So, let's build in the right tools that allow the farmer to remotely diagnose what's happening, and almost allow the farmer to put themselves in the tractor without having to be in the tractor.

"We believe that as the farmers get comfortable (they will be able to say) it's not perfect, but when there's something going wrong, it tells me, and then I can do something about it. That's the key to building that bridge of trust," he said.

Here's the video interview with Sanchez where he walks viewers through the 8R and the issue of trust:….

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Dan Miller