Autonomous vehicles are quickly becoming somewhat of a hard fact for our future. Chevy, Tesala, Google, Mercedes-Benz and plenty of manufacturers are pushing for the fully autonomous car as quickly as they can. But Rolls-Royce sees a different side of the autonomous revolution, with self-guided and radio controlled cargo ships.

Rolls-Royce Robotic Ships

AI-controlled and robotic cargo ships might be a distinct part of our future now too

In Amsterdam last Tuesday the British propulsion firm announced their plans to make remote autonomous ships a reality. The idea is to have humans control the ships from land-based locations. Much in the same way that UAV’s are controlled from remote locations, so too would the operations of the ship during transit be controlled from afar. They’ve already been testing a simulated robotic cargo ship in Finland to great effect. The technology is there, they say, it just hasn’t quite been brought together in this way. They plan on having a working shipping fleet by as early as 2020.

The idea isn’t necessarily far off. Such AI, or more simply programmed, autonomous machines in a shipping capacity have been dreamt up by science-fiction writers for some time. Star Wars is one of the prime examples, with R2 frequently flying Lukes X-Wing in the various, now Legends status, extended universe books. It makes sense to not risk human life where it could very well be dangerous. Plus it’s also quite costly to pay those employees for the duration of their sea-travel as it is. Then there’s the issue of robots taking even more jobs, as the crew to staff such a robotic cargo ship would be much less than a fully human controlled affair.

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