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American Shipper

MOL, Rolls-Royce partner on autonomous vessel AI

Japanese ocean carrier MOL and U.K.-based engineering company Rolls-Royce Marine will work together to create an Intelligent Awareness System (IAS) for autonomous ocean vessel navigation.

   Japanese ocean carrier Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. (MOL) has signed a deal with U.K.-based engineering conglomerate Rolls-Royce Marine for joint research of an advisory type Intelligent Awareness System (IAS) to be used in autonomous vessel operations, MOL said in a statement.
   The technology will be used in new sensors for nautical instruments such as ship radar for the detection of nearby ships and obstacles. In the future, by integrating weather and route information in the sea area where the ship is in operation, the AI system can detect obstacles with greater accuracy and draw upon advanced ergonomics to provide a more effective user interface for crewmembers, said MOL. 
   “MOL is targeting safer and more efficient vessels operation and takes a proactive stance on research and development of autonomous ships,” the company said. “This joint project uses Rolls-Royce’s IAS, which can be an underlying technology, and the IAS will be installed on a ferry in service. “
   Initially, the IAS will be conducted on a ferry in service in the Seto Naikai Inland Sea, operated by MOL-Group Ferry Sunflower Ltd. The Inland Sea is one of the world’s most congested sea areas, said MOL, and the joint venture will collect and analyze data on marine currents, vessel traffic congestion, and other conditions in the area to promote practical application and research of the system.
   Earlier this year, MOL and Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuild Co. were selected by Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism (MLIT) for its FY2017 Transportation Research and Technology Promotion Program for R&D of autonomous ocean transport. MOL stated that it continues to take a proactive stance in technology and in promoting its R&D project, “Ishin Next – MOL Smart Ship Project.”
   Rolls-Royce, meanwhile, is a leading member of the Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications Initiative (AAWA),  a project designed to bring together universities, ship designers, equipment manufacturers and classification societies to research the technology and regulatory issues surrounding remote and self-driving ships with the goal of deploying remote-controlled and fully autonomous cargo vessels by 2020
   The firm also recently entered into a partnership with global tech giant Google to further develop its intelligent awareness systems for autonomous ocean vessels, an agreement that allows Rolls-Royce to use Google’s Cloud Machine Learning Engine to further train the company’s artificial intelligence (AI) based object classification system for detecting, identifying and tracking the objects a vessel could encounter at sea.

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