The Mayflower's 1620 sea voyage was retraced by a robotic boat crew that has now reached North America. This time, it is in Canada and not on the Massachusetts coast where its nameake landed over 400 years ago.
According to IBM, the tech company that helped build it, the sleek trimaran docked in Halifax on Sunday. It had travelled more than five weeks across the Atlantic Ocean from England.
The Mayflower Autonomous Ship, measuring 50 feet (15 meters), was piloted using artificial intelligence technology. It didn't have any captains, navigators, or other humans aboard, but it would have been helpful to have one.
Rob High, an IBM computing executive, said that the technology used to create the autonomous system "worked perfectly, flawlessly." "Mechanically, there were some problems."
The boat's attempt to cross the Atlantic to Plymouth, Massachusetts in June 2021, was thwarted by technical problems, causing it to return to Plymouth, England.
The boat set sail from England almost a year later, on April 27, bound for Virginia. But a generator issue diverted the vessel to Portugal's Azores Islands where a member of the team flew in to make emergency repairs. The U.S. bound boat had more problems on the open ocean in May, when it developed a problem with its starter batteries charging circuit.
While AI software is improving in helping self-driving vehicles understand their surroundings and navigate themselves, most robots are unable to heal themselves when hardware fails.
ProMare, a non-profit marine research organization, worked with IBM to construct the ship. On May 30, ProMare switched to a backup navigation computer and charted a route to Halifax. This was more than any U.S. destination. IBM stated that the boat was being tow by a larger boat at the Halifax skyline on Sunday morning via its webcam. This is a safety requirement under international maritime regulations.