Self-Driving Boats: The Future of Navigating the High Seas

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What if the all the ships that navigated our vast oceans could navigate, chart a course, and think for themselves—without any human input?

This is the future the Sea Machines Robotics in Boston, Massachusetts envisions—and it’ll be here even before driverless cars become mainstream. Motherboard set sail on Sea Machines’ boats to see exactly what the future of our automated seas will look like.

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39 Responses

  1. Vincent Karaboulad says:

    "I don't think it's meant to be a replacement of anybody" : LOL.

  2. San Francisco says:

    What is wrong with the captions ? The dialog is nothing as to what they are saying.

  3. Christian Siauwijaya says:

    Imagine pirates in the future will be armed with laptop and signal receiver to hack and intercept into a huge cargo vessel's guidance computer and redirect it to their port then loot it up

  4. Ty coon says:

    so they invented an auto-pilot…

  5. cl8ff says:

    boats have been equipped with autopilot for years …. it's getting smarter.

  6. lazer tag says:

    it doesn't seem all that impressive as self driving cars.. i mean theres not that much obstacles.. wtf are they talking about its hard to believe

  7. Bill Banks says:

    Boats have had an autopilot mode for years….

  8. inance abah says:

    wow, 2018 is a revolutionary year, so many new potential technologies

  9. James Besaw says:

    @nationwide please note the sponsor. love the content btw!

  10. Mr. 2 minutes says:

    being pirate would be interesting

  11. MRTN13 says:

    So, if your boat has sails, are you still driving a boat or sailing a boat? Just wondering as a non-native speaker.

  12. Maxxon says:

    i'm consufed, i thought ships and airplanes have been robot piloted for like 40 years now…

  13. Mike D says:

    Imagine this. You've been stranded on an empty island for years, you finally gather enough resources to make a raft and head out to sea to find your way back to civilization. You have been adrift now for several days and awaken to the sound of motors. You see in the distance a yellow boat. Frantically, you wave and shout and jump. The boat swerves around you and continues on at full speed. RIP Chuck Noland lol

  14. zicada says:

    It doesn't "think", though. Let's calm down a little bit.

  15. Cliff P says:

    I wonder if they like playing battle ship?

  16. Sage Akporherhe says:

    wow, great tech. Now Rolls Royce just needs to buy this company and develop on what they're doing to integrate into its autonomous ship project.

  17. Sage Akporherhe says:

    Hahahahahahahahaha "ROBOATS" yes please. Thank you.

  18. uday bhaskar Reddy says:

    Anybody know where the location shown in 1:20 is at? Thanks.

  19. MrLoobu says:

    It is my dream that someone develope a cheap durable sustainable yacht hull design from unsinkable plastic harvested from the vary oceans on which it sails. Add solar panels wind vanes, high yield electric battery and motor, and design it to maximize living space and ease of handling/safety and you could have a great means for a cheap alternative lifestyle tax free.

  20. Adventures with Frodo says:

    Boats a have had autotonomy probable the longest of any transportation. Autotonomy is replacement.this is a very cool idea, the easiest form to impliment.

  21. Carl Scott Amos says:

    Motherboard, All Mariners are required to assist distressed Mariners. If my boat capsized, I was standing on hull waving my arms, how would the Autonomous Vessel know I needed help?

  22. Fred Peace II says:

    There goes another career.

  23. Floris Schmucki says:

    the labor cost is completely insignificant for big freighters. So autonomy doesn't add any value there

  24. Le Typ says:

    Don't you worry bout SkyNet-fishing?!

  25. JayBee says:

    Somali pirates can't wait!

  26. hanswurst107 says:

    Does the boat have a way to tell visibility? The turn you made toward the other boat to avoid it is illegal in fog!

  27. Ty Vann says:

    Next is airplanes!

  28. Martin Gustafsson says:


  29. Rob Potato says:

    Someone who ‘drives’ a boat, is called a Pilot. This is not difficult stuff, Motherboard

  30. Kal Campbell says:

    Alright well If we dont have sailors on the boats anymore then how will the filthy beggars go port to port!?

  31. Kal Campbell says:

    Where do I begin..hmm if I was a cartel boss I would definitely be placing a large order with this company! Lol

  32. Rex_8787 says:

    Great for drug trafficking!! I’ll take three please !

  33. keoki1978 says:

    Back in the 80’s we had auto pilot on boats. They just drove in a straight line or toward a destination. It’s ancient technology. But to get a boat to pull out and dock automatically, that’s something.

  34. Callum Gillman says:

    You're going to struggle with the AI accounting for the counter moves of Human Captains… i.e. Boat changes course 7degrees to avoid need to avoid, change speed, human pilot doesn't notice immediately and has plotted that if he speeds up he'll pass in front… And then the AI has to think 'Wtf it's changing course' and re-evaluate it's course all over again… What would be awesome is if autonomous vesssls could communicate to the manned vessels their intentions i.e. "MV Oregon is maintaining heading 260, speed 22 kts, no chance of collision, don't adjust" to the human and that human know that vessel now doesn't need to be so accounted for as the intentions are known….

  35. seccat says:

    Not all boats have their AIS systems on.
    Lost cargo containers and float debris don’t AIS.
    Pirates don’t have AIS

  36. AncientFaroe says:

    Boats do not drive

  37. E S says:

    Self driving planes? Wait those already exist just called self guided missiles.

  38. usethefooorce says:

    But does it handle huge waves? Good piloting skills are needed on the open ocean to move at any sort of speed in a small boat…

  39. Nelson Gonzalez says:

    Fascinating tech and the applications are numerous. Reading some of the comments, folks seem to be worried about losing their jobs … not really. Like the introduction of the locomotive, the car and planes this is just another step in the right direction. More jobs will be created in other markets. Brave New World folks, swap over and get some new skills if you want to be in the job market.

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