ESSEN: While drivers and city dwellers continue to wait for the safer roads, leisurely commutes and high-tech driving experience promised by autonomous cars, shipping companies have been busy looking into how the same technology can transform their industry.
German shipping industry experts say they expect their waters to be full of autonomous freight ships within the next 15 years, according to a new study by local government industry group that is pushing for autonomous ships to be trialled in Germany's western Ruhr region.
The study said the technological development may lead to less trucks driving on roads, as goods can instead by shipped closer to their destination by small autonomous ships using canals, rather than being offloaded straight onto trucks by large freighters arriving in ports.
Last year, plans were unveiled for the first autonomous ship by two Norwegian companies, chemicals company Yara and marine technology manufacturers Kongsberg.
Their YARA Birkeland is first being trialled with humans on board, not unlike current autonomous car trials, and is set to graduate to full autonomy as early as 2020.