John Deere has acquired Light, a California-based company that develops depth sensing and camera perception for autonomous vehicles. John Deere will integrate the Light platform, Clarity, into its autonomous tractors.
The camera-based Clarity platform is able to see 3D objects from 10 centimeters to more than 1,000 meters and uses signal processing to build a 3-D view of the surrounding environment. According to The Robot Report Deere will integrate Light’s Clarity platform into its autonomous tractors.
Deere appears to be using a vision-only approach to autonomy, rather than LiDAR, which, according to John Deere, doesn’t perform too well in dust. Another reason is that LIDAR uses moving parts, which is not ideal in rugged environments. And although LIDAR can “see” up to 90 meters ahead of a vehicle, Deere says that’s not necessary for a tractor, which is going relatively slow. With stereo cameras the tractor can see 20 meters ahead of itself, which is enough.