Rolls-Royce teams up with Google on autonomous ships

A ship-based AI will be trained using Google's vast data analytics platform

Rolls-Royce and Google have signed a deal to jointly develop technology for use on autonomous ships, considered an industry first in the marine sector.

Inked at the Google Cloud Summit in Sweden, the partnership will grant Rolls-Royce access to Google's predictive analytics platform, known as the Cloud Machine Learning Engine, which will be used to train its own in-house AI.

Rolls-Royce is currently developing an AI-based object classification system designed to detect, identify and track objects that a vessel may encounter while at sea. The company will make use of the same neural net-based software that powers Google's products, including its smart assistant and voice search.

"By exploring the possibilities presented by machine learning, Rolls-Royce can combine the latest technology advancements with its deep knowledge of the maritime industry, ultimately bringing significant improvements to the sector," said Eva Fors, head of Google Cloud Sales Nordics.

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The agreement will see Rolls-Royce develop machine learning models built on Google's Cloud software that are able to analyse vast amounts of marine data, training its AI to create relevant and accurate predictions. Onboard sensors, radar data, and current technology such as the Automatic Identification System will all be mobilised to collect data to form a global database.

While autonomous vessels are the ultimate goal, the deal will also see the development of systems that can improve the efficiency of existing ships, while giving crews an enhanced view of their surroundings and creating a safer operating environment.

Karno Tenovuo, SVP of Rolls-Royce's dedicated ship intelligence unit, said: "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. By working with Google Cloud we can make these systems better faster, saving lives."

Picture courtesy of Rolls-Royce

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