The world of transportation is in the midst of a love affair with automated modes of movement. The driverless car is a daily talking point and extends from simple sedans to titanic trucks. Drone delivery has been in the near-future for so long, it’s already been lampooned in commercials. With land and air already embracing the tech evolution in their industry, the seas might be next.
Just as important, emissions regulations have become a guiding light for technology developers. Tech leaders want to (and in some cases, need to) shape a responsible future as it moves forward.
In the past week, Norway’s Kongsberg Maritime division, in a partnership with Norwegian fertilizer company Yara International, unveiled plans for what they’ve labeled the “first autonomous and zero emission ship”, the YARA Birkeland. Fitted with state of the art maritime technology, the ultimate goal for the YARA Birkeland is to overtake much of the export traffic undertaken by diesel trucks and sail fully autonomously by 2020.
On Kongsberg’s features video, autonomous sailing is a secondary feature to emissions relegation:
Some of the features covered include:
- Full zero emissions loading, unloading and sailing.
- The replacement of roughly 40,000 annual cargo trips carried out by diesel-fueled trucks, reducing pollution.
- An expected increase in road safety with so many trucks off the road.
The YARA Birkeland is marketed as existing for the purpose of reducing truck emissions and increasing safety by 2020.
But read the same recap from a site like this one, and the emphasis changes from environmental conservation to autonomy. Automated systems are often met with skepticism and wariness; the logic follows that the robots are one step closer from taking human jobs.
And even if that sentiment is untrue, it’s clear Kongsberg has placed more emphasis on their promotion to the environmental changes their technological developments promise to bring. Automation, efficiency and environmental impact are related in a tangible way, but the presentation of that relationship needs to be handled carefully. Technologies that improve the world generally move forward, but they can be derailed all the same. Years ahead of their full-switch to autonomous sailing, Kongsberg Maritime and Yara International would prefer to avoid any negative press, something that seems to follow automation and autonomy around.
So is the YARA Birkeland about autonomous shipping? Or is it about a cleaner environment? Maybe a little bit of both? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
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