The Risks and Rewards of Unmanned Ships at Sea
Just as self-driving cars have taken to the roadways, autonomous boats are hitting the waters. Behemoths of the sea, including cargo ships, are opting to navigate waters without the help of a human operator. While there is likely no stopping unmanned vessels from continuing to enter the maritime industry, they do not come without their risks.
What Is an Autonomous Boat?
A fully autonomous vessel is one that does not have a human operator. It is operated by a machine and is able to make decisions on how to navigate. However, there are different levels of autonomy. Some ships are semi-autonomous, meaning they have some degree of human interaction.
What Benefits Are There to Autonomous Shipping?
There are a number of benefits to autonomous shipping. Proponents of self-driving vessels note that fewer people will need to be on board. During dangerous conditions, fewer people will be at risk of serious injury or death on an autonomous ship versus one that is manned by a full crew. A smaller crew will also mean a reduction in cost, which could be passed down to the consumer.
Another reason people consider autonomous boats beneficial is that many accidents are caused by human error. Removing the human operator from the equation may, in fact, reduce the number of preventable accidents on the water.
What Risks Are There to Autonomous Boats?
Autonomous boats, however, do not come without their risks. The problems are similar to those of autonomous vehicles. Any time that a machine must make decisions, there is room for error. The heavy reliance on technology to know how to navigate dangerous situations could not only risk significant property loss but also put other people at risk of serious injury.
Unmanned ships may also be at a higher risk for hijacking or maritime piracy. Without the threat of conflict, malicious actors may be more willing to seize a vessel for its cargo. In addition to physical attacks, an autonomous vessel may be more prone to a cyber attack. With a complete reliance on technology for navigation, the boat may be unable to respond if there is a cybersecurity threat.
Will Autonomous Vessels Cause More Accidents?
Advocates of autonomous shipping argue that unmanned vessels may lead to a reduction, not an increase, in maritime accidents. However, it remains unclear until additional autonomous boats enter the industry. A lot will depend on the efficacy of the technology used to help these ships navigate adverse conditions. The potential for accidents is there, just like the collisions that have been reported with self-driving vehicles.
Contact Our Office to Schedule a Consultation
Undoubtedly, the world is moving toward more autonomous shipping. This increases the chances that you or someone you love could be involved in an accident with an unmanned vessel. If you are injured in a collision with an autonomous boat, contact Mase Seitz Briggs to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Call (844) 627-3529 to speak directly with a member of our legal team. All consultations are confidential and provided without obligation to retain our firm.