Proactive Collision Avoidance for Autonomous Ships: Leveraging Machine Learning to Emulate Situation Awareness
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Autonomous ship technology is developing at a rapid pace, with the aim of facilitating safe ship operations. Collision avoidance is one of the most critical tasks that autonomous ships must handle. To support the level of safety associated with collision avoidance, this study suggests to provide autonomous ships with the ability to conduct proactive collision avoidance maneuvers. Proactive collision avoidance entails predicting future encounter situations, such that they can preemptively be avoided. However, any such actions must adhere to relevant navigation rules and regulations. As such, it is suggested to predict encounter situations far in advance, i.e. prior to risk of collision existing. Any actions can, therefore, be conducted prior to the applicability of the COLREGs. As such, simple corrective measures, e.g. minor speed and/or heading alterations, can prevent close encounter situations from arising, reducing the overall risk associated with autonomous ship operations, as well as improving traffic flow. This study suggests to facilitate this ability by emulating the development of situation awareness in ship navigators through machine learning. By leveraging historical AIS data to serve as artificial navigational experience, long-range trajectory predictions can be facilitated in a similar manner those conducted by human navigators, where such predictions provide the basis for proactive collision avoidance actions. The development of human situation awareness is, therefore, presented, and relevant machine learning techniques are discussed to emulate the same mechanisms.