John Deere, teaching farmers to program since 2015 (Or earlier?).
I’m probably way too optimistic but I see the natural outcome of this as open source hardware/software tractors :)
Seems to exist some such initiatives: http://opensourceecology.org/
I wonder if this is an opportunity for a tractor startup, where they open up the schematics with open source software and everything.
Seriously, how much would it cost to start a tractor company at this point?
Its a cute idea but I know a few farmers and have a John Deere repair specialist in the family and I can tell you right now brand name means a lot - it’d be hard to persuade people to invent in a new tractor that doesn’t have a long history of being reliable machinery.
I visited this question back when they wanted to use DMCA to keep boxes closed. It’s probably too capital intensive if you’re talking tractors with the level of automation in some of these John Deere’s. I mean, they have some serious tech on top of factories and stuff gerikson mentions. So, what to do?
Thinking like a hacker, I look for ways to cheat around problems. A simpler, but not easy, way might be to look at what they’ve designed in tech, what the market wants for the future, build something better in vendor neutral way, and then license it to companies. You make this in a dual-license or as close to FOSS as you can get so people can inspect/modify/repair what they buy at the least. Even if John Deere will turn it down, there will be some company with the capital willing to build it into their tractors. Especially in Asia.
Now, the other thing to consider is local support. One thing you’ll see if you drive around in rural areas with farms and such is there are John Deere locations everywhere. These places have all kinds of equipment, service areas, parts for them, and so on. While they might overcharge, they also support the farmers on a local level. There’s also extra benefits in areas of providing jobs, bringing tax revenue, and buying American over foreign products. The competitor will need to replace John Deere’s offering in all of these areas for best results with the smallest subset being quality tractors, cheap parts that come quickly, and teaching locals to fix them. I believe that’s doable but now we’re not just talking FOSSing a tractor, are we? ;)
I’m thinking, the tractor market and commercial truck market should be similar.
John Deere has a market cap of 54B USD.
VAG Group (they have a trucking division) is 90B USD.
Volvo (who own Mack, I believe) has a market cap of 43B USD.
Let’s ballbark that 20% of the market cap is simply stuff like factories, basic R&D, staff etc. So I’d wager it would cost around 10B USD to start a tractor company.
not small change…. Elon Musk might have more luck with that than with selling flamethrowers but he might not have the focus. Though I guess he doesn’t have the strongest track record on self-repairable stuff either.
I think the Venn diagram of people interested in tractors and people interested in Tesla has a very small intersection. But I must admit this is based solely on speculation and even prejudice. I don’t know any working farmers, and only one Tesla owner.
I know plenty of both, (I fall into the category of working farmers/tractor interested), and am willing to lend creedence to the speculation that there’s not much overlap.
The few Tesla owners/fanboys here in KY have little/no desire to have anything to do with tractors or agriculture, or rural life, or Freedom in general. They’re really young John Sutherland types.
Meanwhile, my farmer/fabricator buddies are spending all their waking hours poring over welder mods and tractor robots and building cheap/easy 3 phase infrastructure for their workshops, and trying to document it all an effort to spread the Good Word of Free (soft|hard)ware.