Self-driving cars get much attention these days, but what about self-driving boats? Over the last few years, self-steering ships have become a reality. For example, a self-driving container vessel moves fertilizer in Norway between a local port and a factory. In addition, a commercial tanker in Texas recently traveled through the Panama Canal to South Korea using software to drive the ship.
But are self-driving boats safe? Keep reading to learn more, and talk to our Antioch boating accident lawyer at The Law Offices Of Robert T. Edens, P.C., if you have legal questions.
Self-driving boats are a form of autonomous shipping that is becoming more popular as technology advances. Autonomous shipping involves the use of self-piloting ships to handle shipping operations. Just like self-driving vehicles on our roads, self-driving ships can operate autonomously alongside other vessels on popular shipping routes. These ships usually pilot themselves with software, but humans are still required for loading, unloading, and maintenance.
A potential advantage of autonomous shipping is they will be either low-manned or unmanned, reducing the number of people who put themselves at risk at sea. Even if self-piloting ships do not reduce accidents, it is alleged that safety at sea will increase. However, will the software running the autonomous ships be safe?
The autonomous technologies being used in self-driving vessels are often beneficial, but they are not risk-free. Having fewer humans on a ship means a higher risk of something going wrong if the software piloting the vessel makes a mistake. While there are limited examples of self-driving boat piloting errors, we have seen many accidents happen with self-driving Tesla vehicles. This could happen with boats, as well.
For example, Tesla recently recalled 362,000 vehicles because its new driver-assistance software could cause crashes by allowing cars to drive unsafely around intersections. Another recent example was when a Tesla hit a firetruck in California, killing the driver and critically injuring a passenger.
If a self-piloting vessel hits another ship or object, a severe accident could lead to injuries and loss of life. Also, there are concerns of environmental impacts when a self-driving boat operates without human monitoring. For instance, if there was an undetected spill or leak that put pollutants into the water could cause severe environmental damage before a human sees the problem. On the other hand, if a regular crew were on board, they could notice the leak or spill sooner.
Like the development of any new technology, self-driving boats and autonomous shipping will require many adjustments in society and regulatory bodies. Before there are many self-piloting ships, regulatory organizations such as the International Maritime Organization will have to review the software and related technology to determine if it is safe.
In the meantime, boating accidents, whether they involve software or humans piloting them, still happen often. If you were injured in a boating accident, speak to our Antioch boating accident lawyer at The Law Offices Of Robert T. Edens, P.C., at (847) 395-2200.