Toyota invests in autonomous shipping

Japan’s largest car manufacturer has put money towards developing autonomous ships.

Boston-based Sea Machines Robotics announced yesterday that it has closed a $10m Series A investment led by Accomplice VC and Eniac Ventures, with participation from Toyota AI Ventures, Brunswick Corp, through investment partner TechNexus Venture Collaborative, NextGen VP, Geekdom Fund, Launch Capital, LDV Capital and others.

Sea Machines is currently developing advanced perception and navigation assistance technology for a range of vessel types, including containerships. In the first quarter next year, the company will initiate testing of its perception and situational awareness technology aboard one of Maersk’s newbuild ice-class containerships.

In October, Sea Machines released its introductory line of autonomous command and remote control systems.

“We are creating the technology that propels the future of the marine industries. This investment enables us to double down on our commitment to building advanced command and control products that make the industry more capable, productive and profitable,” said Michael Gordon Johnson, founder and CEO, Sea Machines.

Based in Silicon Valley, Toyota AI Ventures is a new venture capital subsidiary of the Toyota group.

“At Toyota AI Ventures, we believe that autonomous mobility can help improve people’s lives and create new capabilities – whether on land, in the air or at sea,” said Jim Adler, founding managing director, Toyota AI Ventures. “Sea Machines’ autonomous technology and advanced perception systems can reduce costs, improve efficiency and enhance safety in the multi-billion dollar commercial shipping industry. This marks our first investment in the maritime industry, and we’re excited to embark on this journey with Sea Machines.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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