CES 2021: Caterpillar, Deere Flaunt Robotic Vehicles For Mining, Farming

While the virtual CES 2021 trade show has featured robot butlers and robot chefs that aren’t ready for prime time, it also has shined a light on real-world automated machines from Caterpillar (CAT) and Deere (DE) that are performing critical tasks today.




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The heavy-equipment manufacturers are exhibiting at CES 2021 to show off their technological prowess and to help with employee recruiting and partnerships. Moline, Ill.-based Deere is making its third appearance at CES, which is still known to many by its former name — the Consumer Electronics Show. Deerfield, Ill.-based Caterpillar is a first-time exhibitor this year.

The four-day CES 2021 event ends Thursday. The tech show moved online this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Farm equipment maker Deere won a CES Innovation Award in the robotics category for its John Deere X Series tractors and combines. The machines use advanced automation technologies as they prepare soil, plant seeds, care for plants as they grow, and harvest crops. All the while, they gather data for analysis and machine learning.

Modern Agriculture Is Extremely Tech Intensive

The John Deere tractors employ artificial intelligence, computer vision, in-field machine-to-machine communication, and integrated sensors for connectivity and self-driving capabilities.

“The reality is that modern agriculture is extremely technically intensive,” Jahmy Hindman, chief technology officer for John Deere, told Investor’s Business Daily during CES 2021. “There is a lot of high technology that goes into making crops perform to their maximum.”

Deere introduced its first self-driving tractors about 20 years ago, but they could only drive in straight lines, he said. Now they can navigate curved paths and do full turns at the end of rows. However, they still require a human operator to monitor job quality and make adjustments, Hindman said.

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“We haven’t yet removed the operator from the tractor, but that’s the progression of things,” Hindman said. “Eventually we’re going to be in that position.”

Caterpillar Seen In Different Light At CES 2021

Mining equipment maker Caterpillar is already at full autonomy for vehicles in many mining operations. Today, the company has more than 350 autonomous haul trucks running 24/7 at mines on three continents, Denise Johnson, a group president at Caterpillar, said at CES 2021. Caterpillar has automated a wide range of its big yellow earthmoving machines, she said.

“Many people think that manufacturing heavy equipment is all that we do. And certainly we’re proud of our reputation for building some of the biggest, most productive machines in the world,” Johnson said. “But the technology that goes along with those machines is built by Caterpillar too.”

Getting that message out is a big reason Caterpillar is at CES 2021. “I want you to see Caterpillar in a different light,” she said.

Caterpillar stock ended trading Thursday up 0.8% to 197.40. Deere added 0.5% to 302.85.

Follow Patrick Seitz on Twitter at @IBD_PSeitz for more stories on consumer technology, software and semiconductor stocks.

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