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    Re: Autonomous ships are coming.
    From: Lu Abel
    Date: 2018 Apr 24, 18:52 +0000
    There have been articles in various publications about autonomous ships for the last year or so.   Several companies, including Rolls Royce, are deeply involved.

    Autonomous vessels -- small ones -- already exist, eg, the oceanic research vessels from Saildrone ( saildrone.com )

    What worries me about large autonomous cargo vessels such as in this news release is not displacing the navigator (sorry, y'all) but the vessel's ability to follow the Rules of the Road and not just run down other vessels, especially smaller ones.  

    I'm a recreational sailor.   If I'm sailing across the entrance to a harbor (or even close to it) will one of these vessels recognize me and that I'm a sailboat, or will I just be the dust under the elephant's feet??   With a manned vessel I can at least try a call on Channel 13 to try to get their attention.

    I heard a talk by a sailor who had participated in the single-handed San Francisco to Hawaii race twice about a decade apart.   When asked what changes he made to his boat for the second race, he said "I installed an AIS unit."  "I wouldn't go offshore without one of them these days, bridge crew on too many commercial vessels these days don't actually keep watch, but simply wait for their AIS system to signal the proximity of another vessel, God help the small boat or fishing vessel out there without an AIS."  

    Which brings up another question I've not seen answered in these breathless articles about automated ships:  Many harbors require a ship to take aboard a Bar Pilot (an experienced commercial mariner with deep knowledge of the specific harbor) to advise the ship's captain on currents, hazards, bridge clearances, etc.   The law is very clear -- these people are advisers and the ship's captain is still in command of the vessel.   How does that work when there are no humans aboard?

    Net, net, is all this just a bunch of breathless publicity, or are there real engineers solving the very real problems that are associated with autonomous vessels?     Anybody notice the similarity of these and all the challenges being experienced by autonomous automobiles as the latter become more commonplace?  

    Lu Abel

    On Tuesday, April 24, 2018, 10:47:48 AM PDT, Gary LaPook <NoReply_LaPook@fer3.com> wrote:

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