Singapore developing collision prevention AI tech

The technology is aimed at preventing collisions like the one between US destroyer USS John S McCain and merchant ship Alnic MC in the Singapore Strait in August 2017. Photo: US Navy

Fujitsu Limited, Singapore Management University (SMU), and A*STAR’s Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC) have partnered up to develop new technologies for vessel traffic management in the Port of Singapore.

The project will be supported by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA).

As explained, the predictive technologies will leverage the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and big data analytics to optimize the management of Singapore’s port and surrounding waters, which sees an immense volume of seaborne trade and traffic.

The technologies will also be validated using real-world data to improve the forecasting of congestion and identification of potential collisions and other risk hotspots before they occur at sea.

The research and development for these new maritime technologies has been conducted under the guidance of the Urban Computing and Engineering Centre of Excellence (UCE CoE), a public-private partnership consisting of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), SMU, and Fujitsu, that was established in 2014. The outcomes of this research and development phase, as well as the practical knowledge and experience gained through the project trials, will be integrated into Fujitsu’s future maritime solutions.

As a result of the collaboration between the trio, several technologies are being developed for improving the management of maritime vessel traffic. These include predictions models, risk and hotspot calculation models and intelligent coordination models.

These technologies will eventually be integrated and test-bedded for their potential to enhance navigational safety, such as the ability to detect and recognize a near-miss risk prior to the event — e.g. 10 minutes beforehand — by combining short-term trajectory prediction with risk calculation. Another target is to forecast and mitigate the dynamically changing hotspot before it is generated — e.g. 30 minutes beforehand — by integrating long-term traffic forecasts, hotspot calculation, and intelligent coordination models.

“Multi-agent technology has been used extensively in coordinating the movements of unmanned aerial vehicles and unmanned ground vehicles. In this project with MPA, SMU is breaking new grounds in research by proposing a next generation maritime traffic coordination technology that is akin to air traffic control, yet respecting major differences and constraints between air and sea navigation. With the advent of autonomous ships, this technology can potentially disrupt vessel traffic management to reduce human errors and improve navigational safety,” Lau Hoong Chuin, SMU’s Lab Director and Lead Investigator of the UCE CoE, said.

Last year, a fatal collision between the US Navy ship USS John S McCain and the merchant ship Alnic MC occurred in the Singapore Strait, resulting in ten fatalities on the navy destroyer. It was caused by a sudden turn by the destroyer, which put it in the patch of Alnic MC. The USS John S McCain’s sudden turn was due to a series of missteps that took place after propulsion controls were transferred, Singapore’s Transport Safety Investigation Bureau said earlier in a report.

The new technologies are expected to predict and prevent such collisions in the future.

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