Rolls-Royce Envisions an Ocean Full of Self-Sailing Ships

The Rolls-Royce company has plans to create an "Intelligent Awareness" system to operate completely autonomous ships.

Rolls-Royce, the world-famous luxury car company, has a “marine-focused enterprise” currently tasked with bringing its unique brand of artificial intelligence to life on the high seas.

It’s called an Intelligent Awareness system — a mashup of cameras, lidar (laser-guided surveying technology), radar and data collected from multiple points around a given ship to inform the system of everything it needs to safely and effectively operate itself, Wired reported.


“Tugs, ferries, and short-sea transport, these are all classes of vessels that we believe would be suitable for completely autonomous operations, monitored by a land based crew…” Rolls-Royce‘s director of marine engineering and technology, Kevin Daffey, told the tech publication.

Daffey envisions the technology being effective enough to severely reduce the costly and dangerous ramifications of human error — which accounted for nearly 70 percent of the 1,000 ships lost to accidents over the past decade.

The sensors will be able to process an enormous amount of data — about a terabyte per day — which will be stored onboard compliments of server rooms created in collaboration with Intel.

Similar to the testing done to ensure the safety of self-driving cars, largely conducted in Phoenix, Arizona, self-steering ships require areas with relatively predictable conditions to conduct trial runs. For ships, that’s a designated stretch of water off the coast of Norway.

Rolls-Royce says its AI could be implemented by select European countries in as little as two to three years.

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