Risk Assessment and Safety for Highly Automated and Autonomous Agricultural Machines

Credit: Shutterstock
Credit: Shutterstock

Due to the labor shortage, there is rapidly growing interest in many forms of farm automation. This includes automation within livestock and dairy facilities (feeders, cleaners, control systems); farmsteads; and field operations.  The field operation category includes up to and including fully autonomous machines like tractors, harvesters, and smaller scale equipment.  The limiting constraint on advancement is risk and both real and perceived safety issues.  The various components of risk we are discussing include:

  • Injury
  • Public safety
  • Downtime risk (from accidents, breakdowns, and other failures)
  • Insurability
  • Policy and regulatory oversight
  • Environmental
  • Cyber security and data protection

While farmers are very interested in the future aspects of this work, currently the primary stakeholder groups for this work include: the equipment industry, USDA-NIFA, policy-makers and regulators, the insurance industry, local community and educational leaders.  One of our most important activities is the Development and Validation of Ag-Automation Hazard and Risk Reduction Model (AAHRRRM) project is funded by USDA – This project involves examining current practices and future needs in risk assessment for highly automated agricultural machines.