The Startup Bringing Autonomous Cargo Ships to Market

With all of the hype around self-driving vehicles over the recent years, it’s a great time to mention that a startup from The Refiners third fleet is under full sail to bring autonomous cargo ships to market. Long story short, they’re taking the lead.

We know what you’re thinking “tech giants have been working on autonomous technology for cars with minimal progress...”

Dive in and find out how they’ll make it happen sooner than you think. More importantly, way before everyone else.


What is a cargo ship?

A cargo ship is a ship that transports heavy goods and materials from one port to another. Today, maritime shipping is the leader of globalization and international commerce due to its low-cost and handling of delicate materials for a cheap price.

The average-size container ship holds 3,500 containers, but the largest container ship in the world can hold up to 21,000 containers. That’s a lot of transported goods!

Photo by  chuttersnap  on  Unsplash

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash


Why autonomous tech for cargo ships?

Autonomous transportation is on the rise.

They recognized this trend and understand that cargo ships will become autonomous sooner or later.

But while tech giants are focusing on augmenting autonomous cars and trucks, Shone directs their efforts the industry that hasn’t evolved since the 1900s.

Here’s how Shone sails in to make it happen.

Photo by  Chris Yang  on  Unsplash

Photo by Chris Yang on Unsplash


Shone’s great idea

Unlike their competitors, that are building their own autonomous cargo ships from scratch, Shone decided builds autonomous technology to retrofit them into existing cargo ships.

So how does an early stage, small startup have the advantage over the competition?

For starters, Shone’s founding team are all engineers who have worked on drones (Camp Six Labs), led a team creating autonomous trucks (Starsky Robotics) and built HD maps for self-driving cars (Mapbox).

Co-founders of Shone: Clément Renault, Ugo Vollmer, Antoine De Maleprad

Co-founders of Shone: Clément Renault, Ugo Vollmer, Antoine De Maleprad


Their first move to step on board

While there are a ton of sensors on ships already, none are able to communicate with each other. Shone will add new sensors which act as a link to existing sensors so all are able to communicate in unity.

With this combined data, Shone will be able to improve situational awareness and recommend different courses to save some fuel and time.



Here’s why it’s a big deal for everyone

There are many reasons why this will benefit the economy, but we will focus on five main points for the sake of this post.

  1. Increases safety: 75-96% of shipping accidents are caused by human error today

  2. Solves the shortage of skilled workers: BIMCO, Baltic and International Maritime Council Organization, predicts a lack of 150,000 maritime officers by 2025

  3. Reduces the cost of international shipping: Drastically improves operational efficiency with sustainable cargo ships

  4. Kickstarts global warming initiative: In 2020, a regulation will take into effect to cap sulfur emissions for ships. If you can produce 1% optimization on saving fuel, you have a bigger impact than Tesla, according to Shone CEO, Ugo Vollmer.

  5. Redesign advantages: Additional container space will be available since there will be fewer crew members on board

Related post: The shipping industry is now tackling its emission problem head on

Quote by Shone's CEO, Ugo Vollmer

Quote by Shone's CEO, Ugo Vollmer


Shone’s sailing full speed ahead in 2018

After Shone completed our Seed Fund Program in December 2017, they gained major traction. Since the start of 2018, Shone wrapped up Y-Combinator’s accelerator in March, raised a Seed $4M Seed Round, and was featured on TechCrunch twice.

Why all of the buzz for such an early stage startup?

For starters, out of the 64 startups that presented at YC’s Winter 2018 Demo Day, Shone was named a Top 7 startup at Demo Day by TechCrunch.  

If that wasn’t enough news, Shone just announced their partnership with CMA CGM, a leading worldwide shipping ground, and pioneer in digitization supporting the maritime economy.

This collaboration will grant Shone to install their tech on board and finalize the development of the artificial intelligence systems for container ships.

So far, Shone has assisted the ship’s anti-collision alert system by fusing data from multiple sensors (e.g., radar, camera, AIS, etc.) to increase detection accuracy. In result, prevents potential collisions, taking into account COLREGs, The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.


Conclusion: Let’s drop anchor here for now

The future for maritime shipping is closer than you would’ve thought.

Similar to self-driving cars, the autonomous fleet isn't going to hit the ocean straight off of the production line. Shone is projecting to have their tech commercially available in the next 3 years.

Until then, we’ll wait patiently to see who will be the first company to bring it to market. We’re betting on Shone.