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The development of smart and autonomous ships is driven by safety and efficiency

Just like other forms of transport, shipping is also moving towards autonomous solutions. In the field of shipping, ABB relies on Aalto University's expertise in digital technologies, artificial intelligence and autonomous systems.

The development of smart and autonomous ships is driven by safety and efficiency. At present, many important maritime operations, such as working on the ship's bridge, are entirely dependent on humans and their capacity to make observations, manage risks and make decisions.

‘Like lane departure warning systems in road traffic, autonomous technologies can help improve maritime safety. Changes in a ship's movement are very slow in relation to human perception. Autonomous technologies help the users identify risk situations in good time and thus improve safety,’ says Dr. Tech. Kalevi Tervo, Aalto alumnus, who leads global research, development and commercialisation of smart and autonomous ships at ABB.

Autonomy not only improves safety, but it also increases the efficiency of ship operations, thus saving energy and reducing emissions. Smart and autonomous steering solutions are also linked with changes in the work of maritime transport professionals and what they expect of their work, as some of the people operating a ship can work in remote control centres.

‘Many young people may no longer want to spend months and months at sea. New technologies enable a career path in which they can be involved in shipping but be less tied to life at sea than before.’

Technology is no longer a bottleneck

ABB does long-term co-operation with Aalto to promote the digitalisation of shipping and the development of autonomous solutions.

‘The university has the latest knowledge of new technologies and trends that can provide opportunities for our own sector. ABB, on the other hand, understands the added value offered by technologies in industrial use. In collaboration, we can find the most functional solutions that generate business and commercial success,’ says Tervo.

In the future, technology itself may not constitute a bottleneck for development. Instead, we to specify how good the technology needs to be in different conditions, situations and tasks to make it as good as or better than humans.

‘The lack of regulations and standards is an obstacle to the opportunities provided by technologies. Their development requires scientific research, for which we need collaboration with universities', Tervo explains.

Text: Marjukka Puolakka

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