While the deployment of autonomous ships may be lagging behind the roll-out of self-driving cars, across the logistics industry companies are already laying the foundations for the introduction of the first autonomous fleets.
Promising the possibility of crewless cargo transport, fuel-efficient movement and accident-free operations, autonomous technology holds great potential and in some respects is already proven. For example, as part of its research into autonomous technology, DNV GL has developed a vessel concept called Revolt. Yet, there may be a significant time lag before the first autonomous car carriers arrive.
From a shipping line perspective, cost savings and safety improvements offer tempting incentives, but the ways in which autonomous systems will interact with human control and the risks they pose in the real world are issues that are far from resolved. One clear distinction when considering the roll-out of autonomous vessels for the automotive logistics sector is the difference between short-sea and deep-sea traffic. While a limited number of autonomous car carriers may appear for short-sea shipment as soon as the next five years, there is a consensus that deep-sea traffic will take much longer.