Self-driving electro-vehicles, trains with a top speed of 1.200 km/h and spaceships that bring us to other planets – it seems like the future of mobility does not take place on the water. But the sea has been an important trade route for several centuries and offers a lot of space. That’s why some scientists and companies still see a big potential in the sea and therefore they are developing a ship for the future.
At a symposium in Amsterdam, the Rolls-Royce-led Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications initiative (AAWA) has now presented their vision for the cargo ship of the future and one thing is for sure: there won’t be a mutiny on that ship. The cargo ship of the future will function completely autonomous and it will have a robotic crew on board. The ship will be equipped with cameras, infrared systems, radar, lidar, microphones, sonar, and GPS. The engine of the robotic ship will be eco-friendly and everything will be supervised by a human who controls a special software from the shore.
The AAWA has outlined several benefits that the new robotic ships would offer. The production costs for a cargo ship would be much lower, because it doesn’t need space for the crew or lifeboats and it could load more cargo. In addition to that, the robotic ship of the future could get a more flexible design and human errors could be reduced.
Thanks to the fast development of drones and robotics, the new technology for autonomous ships could be ready soon. But there is still a lot of work to do until the first robotic ships will be operating. For example, they need to collect much more data from different ships and routes and they have to find answers to the most important questions. Who is liable in the event of an accident? What happens if another boat close by gets in distress? Due to legal and safety reasons there will be a small human crew on board as well, when the first robotic ships go on a voyage.
So, it looks like there are still some years of development ahead of us, until the first robotic ship sets sail. But if you are creative and you don’t want to wait so long, you can pass some time building your own robot with Tinkerbots.