Elizaabeth, the tractors really do drive themselves. They could run without a driver. The people I know sit in the tractor and the main reasin is liability. If something went wrong, they are there to take over. It is a lot like the Space Shuttle.
The tractors use GPS for guidance. There are some that might use lasers. During harvest, the combines provide real time yield information. This is fed into a program that determines what to do at each point in the field. This could involve seed or fertilizer, for example. After last year's drought, the farmer may use drought resistant seed varieties in those areas that did not do well. This, of course, saves money since the drought resistant varieties are more expensive. It is the same with fertilizer. It not only saves money, it is better for the land.
That's really incredible, naperlou. I did not know how sophisticated tractor technology had become with GPS, the ability to gather and access real-time info and even lasers! I wonder how far off a completely robotic and automated farm is, without the need for anyone in the fields or on the land to do the job that humans traditionally have done?
Chuck, these are worldwide figures. Graphs showing geographic distribution weren't included in the executive summary, but I'd bet the vast majority of those domestic 'bots are being sold in Asia, and to a lesser extent in Europe.
Ann, Thanks for the links to the slide shows. I continue to be amaze at the volume of new robotic solutions that are being developed. And also the way that they are integrating technology beyond the robotic platform itself. Thanks again.