AI-Powered Trimaran Mayflower Suffers Glitch Ahead of Unmanned Atlantic Crossing

Two steps forward, one step back: even the most revolutionary, record-breaking endeavors can suffer setbacks. Research organization ProMare and partner IBM have just had their first, with the fully autonomous trimaran Mayflower.
ProMare and IBM's robotic trimaran Mayflower suffers delay in record-breaking crossing of the Atlantic 9 photos
Photo: IBM
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On June 15, Mayflower, a fully automated trimaran with zero crew onboard, started on what would be the world’s first crossing of the Atlantic by a large autonomous vessel. On June 18, Mayflower was back to its starting point in England, having been called back due to some unspecified (but minor) glitch.

Those trying to access the mission dashboard for the live progress of the ship will now find that the ship is offline. Instead, they’re welcomed by a brief message, reading, “MAS400 has developed a small mechanical problem and is going back to base so we investigate further. We hope to get turned around and on our way as soon as possible.”

MAS400 is the official name of the trimaran, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship, a 5-ton, 50-foot (15-meter) tri-hulled ship packed with AI, sensors and tech, and theoretically able to cross the ocean, collect impressive amounts of data, and adjust and optimize course.

It’s a years-long project by research organization ProMare and IBM, which provided most of the software, and it departed from Plymouth, England, heading to Plymouth, Massachusetts by way of the Isles of Scilly and Privincetown on Cape Cod.

ProMare doesn’t offer an estimate for the delay, but once Mayflower is ready to set off again, it should complete the journey in about three weeks. The possibility of a glitch mid-trip was a primary concern from the start, as the video below shows: it’s one thing when something trivial breaks in the middle of the Atlantic and you have a competent crew to fix it, and it’s an entirely different story when there’s no one on board.

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About the author: Elena Gorgan
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Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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