Self-driving even at sea

While the route of cars with self-driving proceeds towards trials, agreements and insurance and legislative formulations, nautical and commercial shipping fields move in the direction of Self-navigation.

The boost, again, comes from the Northern Europe, in the specific from Norway, the same country which sees the market of electric cars goes up of 31% for registrations in 2018 (over 40% if we include hybrid cars) mainly due even to strong government incentives.

Vard shipyard, from Fincantieri group, is building up a container ship with a totally electric propulsion and with self-navigation systems.

Yara Birkeland“, this is the name of the ship – 80 meters long and large 15 – will be able to bring approx. 120 containers.

barche a guida autonoma

The introduction of this ship will lead to a reduction of the road transport, 40.000 trips by truck less yearly.

Already renamed “Tesla of the Seas“, the ship will have GPS, radar, traditional and infrared cameras and laser sensors to safely move from one harbour to another without crew on board.

During the launch and the first trips – expected at the beginning of 2020 – the ship will be monitored from a crew who will act only in case of necessity and then it will be totally autonomous.

From that moment there won’t be a crew anymore and it will mainly sail in the Northern Europe, remotely monitored from a couple of coastal stations.

barche a guida autonoma

As for the automotive field, the international legislations on navigation will have to be updated and the International Maritime Organisation has been tasked with it.

“Yara Birkeland” won’t be, anyway, the first ship to sail without crew on board. Last march, a small ship without crew, set sail from English coasts, reached the harbour of Ostenda with a cargo of oysters and left with one of beer.

barche a guida autonoma
A demonstrative journey in a crowded and busy sea area, which clearly shows the next targets of maritime movements of goods.

The Roll-Royce too is experimenting a technology able to manage an independent navigation, detecting routes and avoiding obstacles. This technology, developed with Intel, is currently being experimented on a ferryboat of the Japanese company MOL.

If tests will be successfully, in the next months, sensors, cameras, light detection and ranging tools will be permanently mounted so that the ship will become the first one active on big commercial routes (Japanese islands) with high level of autonomy.

Of course there are still many problems and obstacles to overcome before going on with a general upgrade of boats or ships with self-navigation system.

Issues with safe navigation in case of anomalies or faults or, in worse cases, problems with acts of piracy, even and specially the informatics attacks, or the ones linked to the interaction with port facilities for loading and unloading operations.

It is certain that the development of these systems, more than in the automotive field, will lead to a revolution in the projecting of boats and shipbuilding field, sweeping away every human duty in favour of managing operations linked to cargos and their movement.

The clipper time is really over!

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