Autonomous robotic boat Mayflower tried to cross the Atlantic Ocean on the route of Mayflower, a ship that arrived in 1620 from England to North America. The idea was only partially realized. The unmanned boat crossed the Atlantic but docked in Canada instead of the United States.
According to IBM, which helped build the modern Mayflower, it moored in Plymouth, Nova Scotia, on Sunday, June 5. The 15-meter autonomous trimaran was powered by IBM’s artificial intelligence and had no people on board.
However, it likely needs a mechanic, because the trip of the unmanned boat was interrupted several times by malfunctions. Its first trip in June 2021 had to be canceled due to technical failures. The boat was then returned to the port of registration in Plymouth, England.
Second time it set sail on April 27, 2022. Shortly after the problem with the generator, it was sent to the Azores, where one of the team members flew to carry out emergency repairs. At the end of May on the high seas, the boat also had a problem charging the starter batteries for the generator.
“The technology that makes up the autonomous system worked perfectly, flawlessly,” said Rob High, an IBM computing executive of the project.
Although artificial intelligence improves the ability to help unmanned boats understand their surroundings and control themselves, such technology is not immune to failure. Most robots do not yet know how to repair themselves.
ProMare, a nonprofit research organization that worked with IBM to build the boat, transferred it to a backup navigation computer on May 30 and set a course for Halifax. This port was closer than any destination in the United States. On Sunday morning, the boat’s webcam showed how it was towed to the port by the requirements of international maritime rules. In total, its trip took more than 5 weeks.