Coming soon to a pasture near you: a tractor with a mind of its own

Star Tribune, September 7, 2019

Minghan Wei sat in a red Toro lawn tractor and typed a few commands into a laptop computer as a handful of engineers looked on.

The tractor didn’t move.

Then, a moment later, it lurched forward, traveling in a smooth line across a freshly mowed lawn at the Toro Co.’s headquarters in Bloomington. It turned left, then right, and circled back to where it began, navigating the yard on its own. Wei, a researcher and Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering, rode along more as a passenger than a driver.

Minnesota’s latest contribution to farming innovation—the “cowbot”—is nearing completion.

U scientists and Toro researchers have been working on the robotic mower for about a year and expect it to be ready for a cattle pasture by the end of next summer.