Unmanned marine vehicles will use sensors & AI to crisscross the world's oceans without a crew – potentially lowering costs & improving safety for the $334B shipping sector. Just as driverless cars and trucks are bringing huge changes to the auto industry, and drones are disrupting everything from emergency response to conservation, autonomous ships are becoming the next major transportation innovation. A number of startups and governments are piloting "unmanned marine vehicles" or crewless cargo boats, with the potential to disrupt the $334B shipping industry. Rolls-Royce already demonstrated the world's first remotely operated commercial vessel earlier this year, and the US military is testing an experimental, autonomous warship called the Sea Hunter. Fully autonomous ships aren't yet allowed in international waters.
Commercial drones and self-driving cars will soon be joined by fleets of autonomous cargo ships that navigate the world's oceans using artificial intelligence. Several shipbuilders and shipping firms in Japan have joined forces to develop remote-controlled cargo vessels that could be launched by 2025, according to the country's Nikkei business newspaper. The ships would use the internet of things – connecting a range of devices over the internet – to gather data, such as weather conditions and shipping information, and plot the shortest, most efficient and safest routes. By removing the potential for human error, the companies believe the technology could dramatically cut the number of accidents at sea. Mitsui OSK Lines, Nippon Yusen and other firms will invest hundreds of millions of dollars developing the technology required to steer as many as 250 ships through busy shipping lanes and, according to the Nikkei, boost Japan's sagging share of the global shipbuilding market.
Paval Botica, chief officer on CMA CGM's Benjamin Franklin container ship, checks a monitor off Guangzhou, China, in 2016. The startup Shone is outfitting CMA CGM ships with situational awareness systems, a first step toward autonomous operation. The next time you hop on a ferry, take a look at the captain's bridge. There may not be a human at the helm much longer. Ships around the world are beginning a transformation into autonomous machines, leveraging the same advances in artificial intelligence that are shaking up the automotive world.
Japanese shipping companies are working with shipbuilders to develop self-piloting cargo ships. The "smart ships" will use artificial intelligence to plot the safest, shortest, most fuel-efficient routes, and could be in service by 2025. The AI will also be used to predict malfunctions and other problems, which could help reduce the number of maritime incidents. The companies plan to build about 250 self-navigating ships. Developing the technology is expected to cost tens of billions of yen (hundreds of millions of dollars).
It is the future of shipping - and there's not a single sailor on board. Rolls Royce has revealed planed for fleets of'drone ships' to ferry carry around the world - all controlled from a central'holodeck'. It believes an entirely unmanned ship could take to the seas by 2020. Rolls Royce said it has already begun testing the technology needed to make the ships a reality, and expected them to take to the sea by the end of the decade. Cameras would beam 360-degree views from the drone ship back to operators based in a virtual bridge.