Rolls Royce and Google Team Up To Solve AI Challenges for Ships

Rolls-Royce Ltd has advanced a partnership with Google to continue building intelligent awareness systems, one of the first steps towards producing autonomous ships.

According to Rolls Royce, which is more commonly known for automobiles, but which has also the marine propulsion division, the autonomous tech will make them safer and easier to operate.

The partnership will see the use of Google’s Cloud Machine Engine in enhancing Rolls Royce’s artificial intelligence capabilities using its object classification system, a functionality that enables the luxury brand’s ships to detect, identify, and track objects at sea. Specifically, both companies will work with data from sensors and existing ship radar and identification systems to make vessels safer and easier to operate. With the partnership, smaller objects current radar tracking capabilities miss such as small boats would be easily spotted, as opposed to relying on crew members to keep watch around the clock.

Google and Rolls Royce will also work together to create machine learning models that will help to distill sizeable marine data sets collected by Rolls Royce, with a longer-term effort by both companies to conduct joint research on unsupervised learning systems and the optimization of local neural network computing mechanisms on board ships.

“While intelligent awareness systems will help to facilitate an autonomous future, they can benefit maritime businesses right now making vessels and their crews safer and more efficient,” said Karno Tenovuo, senior vice president of ship intelligence at Rolls Royce. “By working with Google Cloud, we can make these systems better faster, saving lives.”

Earlier this year, Rolls Royce announced plans to release a fleet of autonomous ships by 2020. One of its primary objectives is to cut sea transportation costs up to 20 percent by removing ship crews and relying on sensors and data. The company has claimed that autonomous ships will be more efficient to operate than crew-led vessels and help create new jobs. Research projects with Norwegian and Finnish governments are already underway to influence regulations for automated cargo vessels.


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