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Japanese car maker Toyota through its US-based venture capital subsidiary Toyota AI ventures along with others has invested $10m in Boston-based Sea Machines Robotics for developing advanced situational awareness systems for ships and growing the company.

Sea Machines was founded in 2015 and is currently developing advanced perception and navigation assistance technology for a range of vessel types, including container ships. In the first quarter, the company will initiate testing of its perception and situational awareness technology aboard one of A.P. Moller-Maersk’s new-build ice-class container ships. Earlier this year, the company announced the development of autonomous fire fighting vessels.

In October, Sea Machines released its introductory line of autonomous command and remote control systems, developed for the demanding challenges of vessels serving the offshore commercial, scientific and government applications. The SM product series is available now and can be installed aboard existing or new-build commercial vessels with return on investment typically seen within a year.

Michael Johnson, founder and CEO, Sea Machines who was previously vice president at TITAN Salvage and Crowley Maritime, said “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”.

“I think this investment sends a strong signal on the types of technologies that will come to define the maritime industry in the future,” said P Michael Rodey, senior manager, A.P. Moller-Maersk.

“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.