Crewless robotic Mayflower ship reaches Plymouth Rock

Category: Technology/Innovations


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. sleek / slik / (adj.) – having a smooth and shiny design or shape, making it look expensive or attractive

    The CEO arrived at the party with his sleek sports car.

  2. escort / ˈɛs kɔrt / (n.) – a vehicle or ship that goes with another to make sure it arrives safely at its destination

    The VIP came to the venue with four escort cars.

  3. namesake / ˈneɪmˌseɪk / (n.) – a person or thing that has the same name as another

    The king will hand down the crown to his son and namesake.

  4. dock / dɒk / (v.) – to take a ship or boat into the place where it is loaded, unloaded, or repaired

    The boat was docked here to be cleaned.

  5. trimaran / ˈtraɪ məˌræn / (n.) – a ship or boat that has three pointed fronts

    Trimarans are fast boats, so some of them are used for racing.


Read the text below.

A crewless robotic boat retracing the 1620 sea voyage of the Mayflower has landed near Plymouth Rock.

The sleek Mayflower Autonomous Ship met with an escort boat as it approached the Massachusetts shoreline on June 30, more than 400 years after its namesake’s historic journey from England.

It was towed into Plymouth Harbor — per U.S. Coast Guard rules for crewless vessels — and docked near a replica of the original Mayflower that brought the Pilgrims to America.

Piloted by artificial intelligence technology, the 50-foot (15-meter) trimaran didn’t have a captain, navigator or any humans on board.

The solar-powered ship’s first attempt to cross the Atlantic in 2021 was beset with technical problems, forcing it back to its home port of Plymouth, England — the same place the Pilgrim settlers sailed from in 1620.

It set off from the southwest English coast again in April but mechanical difficulties diverted it to Portugal’s Azores islands and then to Canada.

“When you don’t have anybody on board, you obviously can’t do the mechanical, physical fixes that are needed,” said Rob High, a software executive at IBM helping to work on the project. “That’s also part of the learning process.”

On July 4, it departed Halifax, Nova Scotia for a successful 4-day journey to Plymouth Harbor.

Nonprofit marine research organization ProMare worked with IBM to build the ship and has been using it to collect data about whales, microplastic pollution and other scientific research. Small autonomous experimental vessels have crossed the Atlantic before but researchers describe it as the first ship of its size to do so.

The voyage’s completion “means we can start analyzing data from the ship’s journey” and dig into the AI system’s performance, High said. He said the prospect of such crewless vessels navigating the seas on a continuous basis will make it easier to collect “all the kinds of things that marine scientists care about.”

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • What do you think about using AI in transportation (ex. efficient, unsafe)? Why? Discuss.
  • If you could improve or develop AI technology for transportation, what kind of functions would it have (ex. self-parking, self-repair)? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • The Mayflower Autonomous Ship has been used to collect data about whales, microplastic pollution, and other scientific research. Do you think collecting data should be left to AI or should there be people involved in doing so? Why? Discuss.
  • AI can collect data faster, but it has limitations like not having human emotions. Do you think the advantages of collecting data using AI outweigh its limitations? Why or why not? Discuss.