Rolls-Royce, the aerospace and marine engine manufacturer, has signed a deal with Google to develop intelligent awareness systems that could make autonomous ships a reality.
The agreement signed at the Google Cloud Summit in Sweden allows Rolls-Royce to use Google’s Cloud Machine Learning Engine to train the company’s artificial intelligence based object classification system for detecting, identifying and tracking the objects a vessel can encounter at sea.
The Google Cloud Machine Learning Engine uses the same neural net-based machine intelligence software which powers many of Google’s products including image and voice search.
Rolls-Royce will use Google Cloud’s software to create bespoke machine learning models which can interpret large and diverse marine data sets created by Rolls-Royce.
Rolls-Royce’s expertise in the maritime sector will be used to prepare the data to train models, ensuring that it is relevant and in sufficient quantity to create statistical significance. As part of the machine learning process, the models’ predictions are evaluated in practical marine applications, allowing the models to be further refined.
In the longer term Rolls-Royce and Google intend to undertake joint research on unsupervised and multimodal learning.
The two companies will also test whether speech recognition and synthesis are viable solutions for human-machine interfaces in marine applications. They will also work on optimizing the performance of local neural network computing on board ships using open source machine intelligence software libraries such as Google’s TensorFlow.
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. This will be achieved by fusing data from a range of sensors with information from existing ship systems, such as Automatic Identification System (AIS) and radar. Data from other sources, including global databases, will also have a role.