Boeing's autonomy acquisition. Tesla truck sighting. Robotaxis for the elderly.
Ghost ride the ship
With autonomy now a white-hot buzzword across industries, car and truck drivers aren’t the only vehicle operators that companies are aiming to replace with technology.
Startups, governments, and maritime giants alike have begun exploring uncrewed ocean vessels. Remote operation is one area of research (as with roadgoing vehicles), with Rolls-Royce demonstrating a teleoperated commercial vessel earlier this year. Fully self-piloted ships are also in development.
These players are pursuing the onboard safety and cost benefits that automated cargo ships could bring:
However, these improvements will have to be balanced against new costs from sensor and communications hardware, as well as operations centers and other onshore workforces. Check out the research brief for a breakdown of the regulatory hurdles, potential data possibilities, and more.
Commercial aviation has steadily adopted automation technology over the decades. Airliners today primarily cruise on autopilot, with pilots intervening for complex scenarios (takeoffs, landings, and emergencies).
Aurora’s AI hopes to serve as a robotic co-pilot capable of takeoff and landing, allowing flight with a single human pilot at the controls. The company is also one of several working on autonomous air taxis, aiming to test on Uber’s Elevate project by 2020.
Autonomy is also being studied cross-functionally; one approach towards early AV deployment involves a similar model to commercial aviation today (autonomous cruising from highway on-ramp to off-ramp, with manual takeover for urban driving). Another perspective borrows from the aviation concept of flight envelope protections.
Earlier this year, Amazon assembled an in-house think tank focused on emerging autonomous vehicles and ways to leverage AV technology for the company. The company is also investing in a European auto retail push.
As with most patents, this filing makes no mention of the drone recharging system as a saleable product; it’s possible this tech could be applied exclusively to Amazon’s logistics operations (more on the expansion of those operations in the blurb below).
Current-generation drones also often struggle with range and battery constraints as well, before the consideration of excess capacity for recharging other vehicles. Nonetheless, the patent is another creative stopgap for the gaps in nascent EV infrastructure, and more evidence of Amazon’s various vehicular ambitions.
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