Connected and autonomous vehicles are expected to provide huge economic, social, and industrial benefits to the planet. As we hasten our efforts to provide energy, water, and food for over nine billion people, deployment of these advanced technologies that have access to things such as wireless Internet will be critical for the agricultural sector.
Modern agriculture is high-tech. Geographical information systems (GIS) software is used to plant farm fields, Global Positioning System (GPS) guides field operations, and auto-steer systems make tractors follow GPS guidance without human hands. For agriculture-intensive states like Idaho to remain globally competitive, it must continue to transition to full autonomy technologies and take advantage of advanced data analytics to deploy these technologies.
Understanding these factors led to a series of discussions among the Idaho Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory, the Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES), and several universities and private companies in the state. These discussions underscored the need to act rapidly and to develop a regional Autonomous Systems Center of Excellence (ASCE). The ASCE enables the swift development, deployment, and commercialization of technologies that advance the competitiveness of Idaho, especially in the area of agriculture technology.
The Idaho Department of Commerce and CAES launched the Autonomous Systems Center of Excellence in April 2015 with a novel funding model for public-private-government collaborations. ASCE solidified the strategic partnerships between the state and local governments and Idaho National Laboratory (one of the five members of CAES). ASCE has already generated regional economic benefits and is driving new partnerships among business, university, and government entities.
Additionally, ASCE is bringing new businesses into Idaho, developing innovative techniques for assessing plant stress as it is happening, and stimulating new research directions for universities. ASCE is intent on using unmanned aerial systems to take Idaho agriculture to the next level of high tech.