California won’t allow autonomous tractors yet

Monarch offers a 40 hp electric tractor. It's available in the United States for $ 50,000. - Photo: Monarch Tractor
Monarch offers a 40 hp electric tractor that can operate autonomously. It's available in the United States for $ 50,000. - Photo: Monarch Tractor

The Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board (OSHSB) of the US state of California has rejected a petition from autonomous tractor manufacturer Monarch. The use of autonomous tractors will not be allowed in California.

According to the OSHSB the technology of autonomous tractors ‘is still very new’. Therefore, human supervision is required. “Although research has been conducted in this emerging industry, the current dataset is too small to conclude that the safety provided by an autonomous tractor is equivalent to that provided by a human driver,” the agency states.

More information needs to become available, according to OSHSB, before autonomous tractors can be allowed. This would include information gained by Monarch during tests with their tractors in California. These have been operating with a waiver for some time. Monarch claims to have logged more than 1,300 hours, with no accidents, or near accidents.

“Autonomous and driver-optimised machines offer a wide range of benefits to agriculture, including improved air quality, sustainability and food quality. However, one of the most tangible and significant benefits is the improved safety of farm workers,” wrote Monarch director Praveen Penmetsa in his proposal for a permit for autonomous tractors.

The OSHSB said it will review the matter again in 2026.

Hugo Claver Web editor for Future Farming