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The Autonomous Ship


To address these challenges, proposals should address the first bullet and several of the following aspects:

  • With a focus on first adopters (inland waterways, short sea shipping, ferries coastal operations and urban water transport) develop and demonstrate to TRL7 a fully autonomous vessel within a realistic environment which encompasses all necessary features including collision avoidance, interaction with waterway and/or port infrastructure, interaction with waterborne traffic, connectivity, control, navigation and docking, condition monitoring, smart maintenance and fail safe operation. The differentiators of EGNOS/GALILEO for Autonomous Vessels should be considered.
  • Assess operability, reliability and failure scenarios for on board systems without human interaction on board, for example; propulsion and machinery systems, auxiliaries, safety systems, navigation, connectivity/communication and if appropriate, their connectivity/controllability from a remote operation centre.
  • Develop validation, certification and safety assessment methodologies, tools to support autonomous ships and system development.
  • Safety assessment and demonstrate hazard avoidance using typical scenarios.
  • Regulatory and legal requirements, including liability regimes, needed to operate autonomous waterborne transport within the environments foreseen for the likely first adopters should be addressed. Also, for intercontinental shipping identify the potential necessary amendments to international conventions. In discussion with important stake holders, identify the technological and regulatory barriers and establish a road map to overcome.
  • Cybersecurity solutions to enable secure safe and reliable data connectivity that are resistant to both malicious intervention and system failure.
  • Advance and demonstrate underdeveloped technologies such as for example situational awareness and actions to alert in case of a potential unavoidable collision such as with a fast moving leisure craft.
  • Address operations and establish a business case for the most promising vessel type and for other services likely to be adopted at an early stage.
  • Increase public awareness of autonomous waterborne transport and engage in dialogue with relevant stake holders so address social and human factors including those concerning safety, change of skills, socio technic aspects and the impact on employment.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU between EUR 10 and 20 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Digitisation and autonomy will bring disruptive changes to waterborne transport, providing competitive advantages to European business, better integrating logistics, changing business models, improving safety, facilitating maintenance, allowing telemetry and shore-based support as well as modifying the role of crew thus raising societal issues that need to be addressed. Whilst the first autonomous prototypes are being deployed, important regulatory and technical challenges remain. Due to the regulatory environment applicable to intercontinental shipping, the first adopters will operate only within national water of a single country or several countries subject to specific agreement. Consequently the first connected and autonomous services are expected to concern inland waterways, short sea shipping, ferries, coastal operations and urban water transport. The challenge is to now develop and demonstrate integrated automation technologies within a real environment.

Achieve a breakthrough in automated waterborne transport through demonstration of a fully autonomous vessel targeted towards either inland waterways, short sea, ferry, coastal operation or urban water transport vessel within a relevant environment. Understand the social economic and regulatory factors of autonomous waterborne transport. Enable establishment of the first commercial automated water transport services within 5 years. Enhance European competitiveness and support European jobs and growth.