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Japan Tests Autonomous Navigation Using Large Ferry

The SOLEIL ferry during fully autonomous ship navigation systems demonstration test. Photo courtesy Mitsubishi Heavy Industries

Japan Tests Autonomous Navigation Using Large Ferry

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 5009
January 18, 2022

Japanese shipbuilder Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) announced the completion of what it claims is the world’s first full autonomous navigation demonstration involving a large car ferry.

The test took place this week off the coast of Shinmoji in Kitakyushu City, Japan, in support of MEGURI 2040, a project promoting the development of fully autonomous vessels supported by The Nippon Foundation.

According to MHI, the test demonstrated the world’s first fully autonomous navigation system on board a 222-meter ferry, with autonomous port berthing and unberthing, turning and reversing movements, and high-speed navigation of up to 26 knots. Other new technologies in the fully autonomous operation included sensors to detect other ships using infrared cameras, a remote engine monitoring system, and a sophisticated cyber security system.

The company said the advances in fully autonomous ship navigation, intended to address issues such as crew shortages and accident prevention, are seen as a significant step toward safer and more efficient coastal shipping.

The Nippon Foundation launched the MEGURI 2040 fully autonomous ship navigation project in February 2020. Plans for demonstration testing to verify autonomous navigation system concepts are planned to be held beginning this month through March 2022.

“This was the world’s first fully autonomous ship navigation of a large vessel of over 200 meters in length with a maximum running speed of 26 knots, and I hope this will lead to further development toward practical use,” said Mitsuyuki Unno, Executive Director at The Nippon Foundation. “There are still many issues to be resolved, however, and I believe today’s results will be a guide toward the creation of international rules for fully autonomous vessels.”

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