An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Japanese shipping companies are working with shipbuilders to develop self-piloting cargo ships. The "smart ships" will use artificial intelligence to plot the safest, shortest, most fuel-efficient routes, and could be in service by 2025. The AI will also be used to predict malfunctions and other problems, which could help reduce the number of maritime incidents. The companies plan to build about 250 self-navigating ships. Shipping firms Mitsui OSK Lines and Nippon Yusen are working with shipbuilders including Japan Marine United to share both costs and expertise, according to the Nikkei Asian Review. The first ships will retain a small crew to oversee certain operations, but there are plans to develop completely autonomous vessels in the future.