The World’s First Fleet of Self-Driving Ships

Has anyone heard the word "autonomous" before? It’s a popular word in the technology world, like AI (artificial intelligence) and VR (virtual reality). Autonomous robots can operate by making decisions in real time without humans operating them. Our ships are not autonomous, so they need a crew to help them make decisions. A ships’ crew is very important! Some crew members include the captain, the engineers (like me) and the people who look after everyone, like cooks and cleaners. If our crew isn’t on the ship, then where are they? They are on land in one of our remote control centers.

Taking the crew off a ship is a big challenge! We’ve been building and operating crewed ships for hundreds of years. Now we need to think very creatively to design technology that performs the same tasks as a crew. What do we do if part of the ship breaks? How do we fix it from the other side of the world? How can we "see" everything a crew normally see with their eyes, like land or other ships?

How did I feel when I tried this way of getting around?:

The remote control center has been designed to feel like the bridge of a ship with a science-fiction twist. We’ve replaced a lot of the buttons and levers with touch screens. We have a 360-degree camera on the ship that records a live video of what a person would see if they were standing high up the mast. Our captain sits in the remote control center on land and is looking at a big computer screen which shows the sea, the sky and other nearby ships.

There is a lot we need to tell the ships to do, such as where to go, when to raise a flag, when to turn the lights on, and how to move to avoid other ships. We use satellites to communicate this. Think of it like sending a text message to the ship.