Google AI to help drive Rolls Royce autonomous ship development

Rolls-Royce has signed a deal with Google to develop intelligent awareness systems for future autonomous ships.

Under the agreement Rolls-Royce will start using Google’s cloud-based machine learning software to train an artificial intelligence (AI) based system for detecting and tracking objects at sea.

Rolls-Royce will use the software to create bespoke machine learning models which can be accessed through the cloud and used to interpret its marine data sets. The technology is considered essential for the ongoing development of autonomous ships.

The technology developed through the deal will also be applied to existing vessels, said Karno Tenovuo, Rolls-Royce, SVP Ship Intelligence: “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,” he claimed.

Such systems can provide crew with an enhanced understanding of their vessel’s surroundings by fusing data from a range of sensors with information from existing ship systems, such as Automatic Identification System (AIS) and radar.


As previously reported by The Engineer, Rolls Royce is leading efforts to make autonomous shipping a reality. The group is heading up the Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications Initiative (AAWA), a project which brings together a host of industry and academic partners and aims to make autonomous ships a reality.

The company also recently unveiled designs for an autonomous naval vessel. Developed in response to interest from a number of navies, this 60m long concept vessel  has  range of 3500 nautical miles and has designed to perform a range of single role missions, for example, patrol & surveillance, mine detection or fleet screening.

In September Rolls Royce unveiled plans for an autonomous naval vessel

In the meantime, engineers in Norway are making progress on the Yara Birkeland, which is expected to become  become the world’s first fully autonomous cargo ship when it launches in 2020. Earlier this month (October 2017) it was revealed that scale model trials of the vessel had begun at test tank facility in Trondheim.