Rolls-Royce Uses Google Cloud To Build Autonomous Ships

Rolls-Royce is to use Google’s machine learning technology to train intelligent, cloud-based systems for recognising and tracking objects at sea

Rolls-Royce has teamed up with Google in a bid to refine its automated system for sensing objects at sea, a step the companies said could lead toward fully autonomous ships as well as improving the safety of existing vessels.

The companies announced the arrangement on Tuesday at the Google Cloud Summit in Stockholm, saying would involve Rolls-Royce using Google’s Cloud Machine Learning Engine to help train Rolls’ artificial intelligence-based object classification system for naval vessels.

Bespoke AI tools

Rolls-Royce is a leader in high-performance power systems and has more than 4,000 marine customers, including 70 navies. The system in question is used by ships to detect, identify and track objects.

“While intelligent awareness systems will help to facilitate an autonomous future, they can benefit maritime businesses right now making vessels and their crews safer and more efficient,” stated Rolls-Royce vice president for ship intelligence Karno Tenovuo.

Image credit: Rolls-Royce

Rolls said it would use Google Cloud’s software to create bespoke machine learning models that can interpret large and diverse marine data sets created by the British company using its expertise in the maritime sector.

The firm said it would itself prepare the data to train models, ensuring its relevance and the terabytes of quantity required for the results to be statistically significant.

The training process involves the models’ predictions being evaluated in practical marine applications so that they can be further refined, Rolls said.

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Cloud access

The machine learning models are intended to be accessed remotely via the cloud, meaning they can be developed anywhere in the world and be immediately made available to other users elsewhere.

The two companies said they plan to undertake joint research on unsupervised and multimodal learning and to test the use of speech recognition and synthesis for use in human-machine interfaces in marine applications.

They also plan to work together on optimising the performance of neural network computing onboard ships using open source libraries such as Google’s TensorFlow.

cloudRolls-Royce said it is developing intelligence awareness systems that are to bring together data from existing ships’ sensors including Automatic Identification System (AIS) and radar along with other sources such as global databases.

“Intelligent awareness systems will make vessels safer, easier and more efficient to operate by providing crew with an enhanced understanding of their vessel’s surroundings,” Rolls-Royce stated.

AI future

Google uses artificial intelligence and machine learning in everything from internet search to nuclear fusion research. It competes in the AI area with IBM, Microsoft and others.

The company’s DeepMind AI subsidiary has faced criticism over a deal with the NHS that involved giving it access to large amounts of detailed, real-time patient data, including sensitive personal information.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) ruled earlier this year that the data-sharing deal was illegal, in part because patients had no knowledge of how their data was used and did not consent to it.

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