Japanese shipping firms are to invest in creating container ships that can be driven by artificial intelligence.
According to the Nikkei Asian Review, companies such as Mitsui OSK Lines, Nippon Yusen and Japan Marine United are to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on creating self-navigating ships by 2025.
The vessels will use the internet of things to generate real time data on obstacles, weather and fuel efficiency.
Nikkei notes that in the future, if all ships are fully automated, it may halve the number of marine accidents, presently running at about 2,000 a year. The project could also raise Japan’s global share of the shipping market from 20% to 30%.
Ship builder Japan Marine United plans to create 250 models offering the auto-navigation system, although a skeleton crew will be on board to intervene if anything goes wrong.
It is not just Japanese firms that are envisioning the rise of the robot ship. Last year, Rolls-Royce issued a press release saying "This is happening. It’s not if, it’s when. The technologies needed to make remote and autonomous ships a reality exist.
"We will see a remote controlled ship in commercial use by the end of the decade."
The EU is also researching autonomous shipping.
Image: A Japanese container ship in Rotterdam (Creative Commons)