Self-Driving Boats: The Next Tech Transportation Race

BOSTON (AP) — The race to build self-driving cars is spilling into the maritime industry as shipping lines and tugboat and ferry operators look to a crewless future.

Marine innovators are designing automated ferry boats for Amsterdam canals, cargo ships that can steer themselves through Norwegian fjords and remote-controlled ships to carry containers across the Pacific. The first such autonomous ships could be in operation within three years.

Michael Johnson, CEO of Boston-based startup Sea Machines Robotics, says early adoption of the technology will assist human crews, not replace them. His firm is working on control systems for oil spill cleanups and other work that’s difficult for humans.

But big firms in Europe and Asia are already setting deadlines to launch self-navigating ships. The first will be remote-controlled before advancing to full autonomy.

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