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The Electric, Driverless Revolution Is About to Hit the High Seas

YARA Birkeland all-electric autonomous cargo ship.

YARA Birkeland all-electric autonomous cargo ship.

October 9, 2017 | Source: Bloomberg Technology, bloomberg.com, 12 June 2017, Jess Shankleman

It’s not just in Google laboratories that the revolution in electric, driverless transportation is gathering pace: a Norwegian shipping company is aiming to be able to deliver cargoes by sea on unmanned vessels from 2020.

The fully electric, zero emissions YARA Birkeland will set sail next year in Europe, Oslo-based Yara International ASA said astatement Saturday. By 2019 it will be able to work by remote control and at the start of the next decade it will be able to deliver on a fully automated basis. The container ship, being built byKongsberg Gruppen ASA, will transport fertilizer.

A breakthrough by Yara could have far-reaching implications for the maritime industry, which has historically consumed the dirtiest fuels available from refineries. On land, automakers are boosting their efforts to develop driverless vehicles alongside electrification. Ford Motor Co., Bayerische Motoren Werke and Volkswagen AG have said they aim to develop driverless cars by the early 2020s, while Google’s sister company Alphabet Inc. is testing technology already.