LIMA — Autonomous technology has become a staple in agriculture equipment.
That’s where, commercially, significant inroads have been made.
“Farm and Ag equipment is pretty far advanced in the world of autonomy,” said Maryn Weimer, senior associate director of Ohio State University’s Center for Automotive Research. “Farmers have been working on autonomous tractors and vehicles in large agricultural spaces for some time.”
Autonomous technology has advanced more quickly in agriculture because fields and farms are a safer and closed system, Weimer said. The tractors are not out on the roadway interacting with other vehicles and pedestrians, she said.
The Case Corp. has a prototype driverless tractor, but having driverless tractors in widespread use is still some years off, said Max Moeller, a salesman at Farmers Equipment, Inc., Lima. About 75 percent of all new equipment they sell has autonomous features which allow the equipment to drive itself around the field with an operator in the seat, he said.
The farmer sets a boundary line around the outside of the field in the autonomous system and then draws an AB line across the field and the machine follows that, he said.
“It’s very accurate,” Moeller said. “If you get what you call RTK, which is the best guidance system, you could set a line basically down the center of state Route 309 and come back a year later and it would be within one inch of that line.”
There are even conversion kits farmers can purchase for equipment from before automation was available. Moeller’s seen farmers purchase the kits to put them on tractors from the 1970s.
When will cars catch up?
‘You and me buying our own autonomous vehicle, it’s going to be awhile,” said Weimer. “People always ask me for a date. We’re not exactly sure, but I’m going to say 10 plus years before you see a large amount of autonomous vehicles driving on the road.”
What most likely will happen is a slow adoption of autonomous features added to the vehicles we drive, she said.
For example, rear view cameras were a feature only seen in luxury vehicles when they were first released. Gradually they have become a more standard feature, Weimer said. Automated features like parallel park assist and adaptive cruise control also will gradually become more standard in vehicles. All that will happen before fully autonomous vehicles hit the streets.
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362