The Nelly Bly will leave the port of Hamburg next September. On board this small tug there will be three people, but none of them will take the controls unless it is an emergency. It is an autonomous ship and its creators want it to return to Denmark.
The journey is neither short nor easy. It is a route of 1,000 nautical miles (approximately 1,852 km) full of maritime traffic of all kinds and with stops in equally busy ports. The promoters of the trip are an American company called Sea Machines and the purpose of the voyage is precisely to test its new autonomous maritime navigation system, the SM300
The SM300 is a computer vision system that complements GPS guidance systems and all other computerized nautical information enjoyed by human piloted vessels. The system is not only capable of following a predetermined route. It also detects obstacles and avoids them along the same route. This last detail is essential when moving through busy waters with small boats that move from here to there.
The Nelly Bly, named after the journalist who set a record for a solo circumnavigation of the world, will carry three people on board at all times, but none of them will take control of the ship. Your job is to sit down and record the incidents of the journey. They will only take control of the ship in the event that the autonomous navigation system fails and the ship has to be maneuvered in an emergency. The three passengers will be replaced in shifts so they can rest. The real crew of the Nelly Bly is across the ocean at Sea Machines headquarters in Boston.
The company does not only have this small boat. It has recently been chosen by the United States Department of Defense to provide autonomous navigation to refueling ships. Sea Machines is not even the only one developing this technology. There are a few more that suggest that autonomous driving will become popular much sooner at sea than on land.
Read this story on Gizmodo here.