Google and Tesla aren’t the only companies looking into vehicles that can drive themselves: Rolls Royce is as well.

Except Rolls isn’t focusing solely on cars; no, the company is actually busy evaluating the viability of self-driven, ocean-going ships, the kind that carry the goods that keep countries’ economies going. Also the kind that have traditionally required a full human crew to be efficient and effective.

According to Engadget, complete ship autonomy is the company’s long-term goal; in the short term Rolls’s engineers are experimenting with remotely controlled ships that use a human crew hooked up to virtual “decks” by way of VR equipment to steer sensor-equipped ships, exactly as they would if they were physically on those ships’ bridges.

By using sensors, drones and advanced communication arrays that feed data back to the remote operators, crews can remain aware of conditions to a greater extent than they can in person, and respond in real time from thousands of kilometres away, Rolls Royce says.

Autonomy Soon-ish

The company apparently aims to launch the first remote-controlled ships by 2020, and expects to have fully autonomous ships operational within the next two decades. Those ships won’t require any human intervention at all, and thus can use the space usually taken up by things like living areas for additional cargo.

Rolls Royce is working with bright minds from several universities on the technology, and already has one ship set up with a virtual deck. Expect to hear a lot more about this sort of initiative in the future.

Let’s hope that as VR technology continues to mature, someone, somewhere, is also working on a real-life version of Star Trek’s HoloDeck. Thumbs held!

[Source – Engadget, Image – Rolls Royce]


Deon got his first taste of PC gaming at the tender age of 11 when his father bought an 8088 XT, ostensibly to "help him with his homework". Instead, it introduced him to Leisure Suit Larry, King Graham, Sonny Bonds and many more, and Deon has been a PC gamer and hardware enthusiast ever since. He landed his first professional writing gig in 2006 at a prestigious local PC magazine, a very happy happenstance as he got to write for a living about things he loves - tech, PCs, gaming, and everything in between. He's been writing about it all ever since, and loves every minute of it.