Marine

Large vehicle-carrying ferry makes first-ever autonomous run in Japan

Large vehicle-carrying ferry m...
The Soleil ferry on its Iyonda Sea run this week – the event was claimed to be the world's first demonstration of a fully autonomous large vehicle ferry
The Soleil ferry on its Iyonda Sea run this week – the event was claimed to be the world's first demonstration of a fully autonomous large vehicle ferry
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The ship's automated berthing/unberthing system monitor (left) and its navigation system monitor (right)
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The ship's automated berthing/unberthing system monitor (left) and its navigation system monitor (right)
Some of the infrared cameras utilized by the Soleil
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Some of the infrared cameras utilized by the Soleil
The Soleil ferry on its Iyonda Sea run this week – the event was claimed to be the world's first demonstration of a fully autonomous large vehicle ferry
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The Soleil ferry on its Iyonda Sea run this week – the event was claimed to be the world's first demonstration of a fully autonomous large vehicle ferry
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In what is being described as a world-first, a 222-meter (728-ft) vehicle-carrying ferry has autonomously navigated a 240-km (149-mile) stretch of Japan's Iyonda Sea. The vessel even performed the docking procedures on its own.

Taking place this Monday (Jan. 17), the demonstration of the Smart Coastal Ferry project incorporated technology developed by the Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Company and the Shin Nihonkai Ferry Company, which was utilized on the latter firm's Soleil ferry. The ferry project is in turn part of The Nippon Foundation's larger Meguri 2040 autonomous ship navigation development project.

The Soleil first entered service on July 1st of last year, piloted by a human crew. As it repeatedly made the 240-km/7-hour trip between the localities of Shinmoji and Iyonada, its Super Bridge-X autonomous navigation system compiled data on the route. This week's run was the first one handled solely by that system, which took the ferry up to a top speed of 26 knots (30 mph or 48 km/h).

Some of the infrared cameras utilized by the Soleil
Some of the infrared cameras utilized by the Soleil

Along with GPS functionality, the navigation system also utilizes an array of infrared cameras to detect and avoid other ships (day or night), an engine monitoring system to ensure that things keep running smoothly, and an automated berthing/unberthing system. The latter turns and reverses the vessel, allowing it to dock at and disembark from the two ports.

Mitsubishi has stated that the development of such technologies should help increase maritime safety, reduce crew labor requirements, and reduce operating costs. Demonstrations from other Meguri 2040 member groups will be taking place throughout January and March.

Source: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries

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4 comments
4 comments
windykites
More Jobs eliminated. Yes, but at what expense? What would passengers prefer? A live crew, or robots?
ArdisLille
As a 50-year passenger of the Lake Michigan car ferries (yes, I am ancient) my vote goes to a live crew.
John Toothaker
As a retired USMM Chief Engineer, a licensed Private Pilot and a certifiable motorcycle nut, I have been following this "Autonomous" technology being applied to all forms of transportation with enthusiasm. This is the future. It is safer, cleaner and way more efficient. The future is full of challenges. I would rather out think them than quit and go home. Congratulations Mitsubishi!
ljaques
Ferry riders simply want to go from point A to point B in the quickest, least uncomfortable way. Why should they care about live crew if autonomous control is possible?
Kudos to MHI for the win.