Modern Mayflower will set sail across Atlantic

Centuries after the Mayflower set sail from England carrying the Pilgrims to the New World, a new modern-day Mayflower using IBM’s artificial intelligence will set sail across the Atlantic in September of 2020.

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The completely unmanned vessel will depart Plymouth, England and sail to Plymouth, Massachusetts. However, rather than carrying people, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) will carry scientific experiments, according to IBM UK/Ireland Chief Technology Officer Andy Stanford-Clark.

"All that space that would have been for sleeping, and eating and sanitation for the humans on board, that’s now given over to research pods,” he said Monday on FOX Business' “Mornings with Maria.”

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The research pods can contain scientific experiments looking at places in the ocean where ships with humans aboard cannot go, he said.

“[Journeys] can be really long, and boring, and expensive," he said. "This vessel can just plow up and down taking readings and really advancing marine research.”

Aside from the technological upgrades, the new vessel is also much larger than its 17th Century-predecessor with a length of roughly 164 feet (15 meters), compared to the Mayflower’s estimated 90-foot to 110-foot length.

IBM Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) (IBM)

When a connection is available, the new ship will be linked to IBM to ask questions regarding its course and hazards. It will also be equipped with IBM vision systems coupled with AI to process its surroundings, putting the smarts in the ship itself, said Stanford-Clark.

“When it can’t connect to the cloud, [MAS] can do the processing on board and make intelligent decisions for itself," he added.

In the event that the ship encounters an emergency situation where it has gone through all of the decision making programs fed into it and still does not arrive at a course of action, the ship can call “back to base” via satellite where humans can intervene, Stanford-Clark said. The ship’s system has been fed images for the last two years “identifying different obstacles.”

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