Forget about self-driving cars – that’s a long ways off. Rolls Royce announced earlier this month that it successfully ran a completely autonomous passenger ferry in partnership with Finland’s FinFerries. For boats – in this case big boats – autonomous operation has taken a big step with a real-world execution.

We enjoy the evolving tech around autonomous boating because it will help even more people get out there on the water by making it more accessible.

We wrote about how DARPA’s efforts can eventually enable autnomous boating out on the high seas, as well as Volvo Penta’s developments in self-docking. The Rolls Royce milestone is significant because it demonstrates the viability of autonomous navigation – with interesting integrations of both remote control from a distance and drones. There are sensors that detect surrounding traffic so it doesn’t have to rely on AIS.

The video below shows how Rolls Royce is imagining where this is going for the shipping industry. This is not your grandfather’s Rolls Royce. In fact, it’s interesting to note that what you think of as a stuffy automobile maker, they haveĀ 55,000 people in 50 countries, 19,400 of these are engineers. They have customers in more than 150 countries, comprising more than 400 airlines and leasing customers, 160 armed forces, 4,000 marine customers including 70 navies, and more than 5,000 power and nuclear customers.

Several companies are in hot pursuit of self-driving cars because the vast majority of automobile accidents are caused by human error. The ramifications with regard to health and safety are huge. But self-driving cars have to solve some very thorny issues, such as deciding whether the car’s occupant or a pedestrian on the side of the road are saved when faced with that choice. Boats simply have larger room for error, even with weather and marine traffic factored in.

Recently a passenger ferry crashed into a dock – with minor injuries to passengers – in San Francisco. While the causes may be purely mechanical – it’s being inviestigated – it shows the potential for human error.

We don’t expect the Rolls Royce technology to make its way into a Boston Whaler any time soon, but you can sense that boating gets easier and easier over time as tech removes obstacles to enjoying being on the water. Imagine taking a pause on your next boat trip and kicking back without worrying about hitting something. Or push a button so you can pull up to another boat so you can say, “Pardon me, would you have any Gray Poupon?”