University of Turku Researchers Involved in Redefining Maritime Industry
Illustration of an autonomous ship by Rolls-Royce.

​In the AAWA project funded by Tekes (2015–2017), researchers from the University of Turku study the prerequisites for remote and autonomous shipping when it comes to, for example, sensor technology, maritime liability and insurance, and changes in business environment.  Research is conducted in close collaboration with companies and other universities and research institutes participating in the consortium. 

– The University of Turku has a significant role in the AAWA project focusing on multidisciplinary research. The researchers from the University of Turku are involved with a multidisciplinary research portfolio in three of the project's four research programmes, says Esa Jokioinen from Rolls-Royce.

Sensor Fusion Enables the Surveillance of Surroundings

The Technology Research Center (TRC) at the University of Turku focuses on the surveillance of the autonomous ship's surroundings. In particular, it focuses on cameras and the combination of camera and radar data. 

New sensor technology is required, since the route of an autonomous ship needs to be extremely reliably scanned for all objects that would require change of course or fast evasive action.

– No individual sensor can guarantee full reliability, for example, in all weather conditions. Sensor fusion, meaning the effective combination of data from different sensor sources, is therefore a crucial part of the realisation of any autonomous transportation on sea, land or air, explains Senior Researcher Jonne Poikonen.

Autonomy Challenges the Liability Framework 

As a part of the AAWA project, the Faculty of Law at the University of Turku is studying the effects of autonomous shipping on liability regimes and risk management.  One of the main questions is the extent to which the manufacturers of the ships, such as shipyards or autonomous system manufacturers, are liable for the damages caused by autonomous ships.

Nowadays, the liability for damages is primarily based on the negligent acts or omissions of humans. Autonomous shipping challenges the concept of liability when it comes to damages.

– Legally, the situation becomes difficult when the damage is a result of a mistake by an autonomous system instead of human negligence, says Project Researcher Felix Collin.

Shift to Autonomous Shipping Takes Place Gradually

Researchers from Turku School of Economics are mapping the global changes in relation to transition to autonomous shipping and its market and actors. The project has identified the development of autonomous shipping as a systemic innovation where both technological and social change coincide.

– In this phenomenon, it is interesting to see how different actors adopt new innovations that increase autonomy and will most likely revolutionise the industry. These innovations accumulate as a systemic change that will redefine the maritime and wider societal operations. In recent maritime history, the introduction of containers can be seen as a similar change, says the Development Manager Jouni Saarni.

– With autonomous shipping, companies and operators will have to reconsider their business strategies by developing new networks and services. New solutions and actors can be expected to enter the field also from outside the maritime industry, notes Docent Hannu Makkonen.

Researchers estimate that the commercialisation of autonomous processes will increase during the next 2–3 years.

– The development of autonomous shipping does not mean that we can start using fully autonomous ships straight away. More likely, it means that the amount of different autonomous shipping processes will gradually increase. Autonomous shipping will become commonplace when all technological, commercial and social circumstances make it possible. This will most likely happen in the 2020s, says Director Antti Saurama.

The AAWA project aims at analysing challenges and possibilities associated with autonomous shipping from various scientific and maritime perspectives. The companies that have partnered in the project are Rolls-Royce, DNV GL, NAPA, Deltamarin and Inmarsat. The research partners are the University of Turku, Aalto University, Tampere University of Technology, Åbo Akademi University and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. The total budget of the AAWA project funded by Tekes is €6.5 million and continues until 2017.

Sea and maritime studies are one of the thematic collaborations through which research is profiled in the new strategy of the University of Turku.  Multidisciplinary research related to this thematic field is conducted in different units and research projects.

More Information:

>>Rolls-Royce press release: Rolls-Royce unveils a vision of the future of remote and autonomous shipping

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Photo: Rolls-Royce

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Published date 4/20/2016 12:50 AM ,  Modified date 9/2/2016 1:05 PM

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