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"I realized there was a heavy-duty change coming in biology, and I could write a really compelling novel about catastrophic evolution, punctuated equilibrium."
- Greg Bear

Autonomous Ship  
  A sea-going vessel that can leave port, traverse vast distances, and then dock, entirely without human assistance.  

As far as I know, this is the first reference to an autonomous ship.

A big searchlight in the bows rotated slowly on its pivot until its lens was turned squarely on me, and I caught a distorted reflection of myself in its depths; and then it turned back into its original position. It gave mo a creepy, momentary impression of a huge eye that had looked at me, stared for a moment, and then looked away again.

In a few moments the ship was slipping along at considerable speed between the jetties, and Galveston was only a serrated purple skyline astern...

It was a queer ship. Even though my knowledge of ships was limited to what I had acquired during a few years’ residence in a seaport city, I could see that it was an uncommonly built and arranged vessel.

There was no wheel, and no steersman! The usual site of the wheel and binnacle was occupied by a cabin with some instruments in it; nor could I find anywhere any signs of anything resembling steering-gear. How was the ship piloted? Who was watching the course? There wasn’t a lookout to be seen anywhere! Yet the ship had picked a tortuous course from its dock down the harbor and between the jetties...

For a moment, the after deck engaged my attention and made me forget my hunger. The space ordinarily occupied by officers’ quarters was filled by masses of apparatus. Through the windows and doors I could see great stacks of delicate and complicated mechanism, such as I had never dreamed of before in connection with a ship. There were clicking relays and fluttering vanes and delicate gears; little lights would go on and off, little levers would jerk, here and there, in twos and threes and dozens, and then all would be silent and motionless for an instant...

...all over the ship there were various bits of mechanical activity: here water running from a hose; there a rotating anemometer; yonder a pump sliding and clicking back and forth. It looked for all the world as though an efficient and well disciplined erew had left but a moment ago.

Technovelgy from Paradise and Iron, by Miles J. Breuer.
Published by Amazing Stories Quarterly in 1930
Additional resources -

Compare to the autofreighter from The Mountain in the Sea, by Ray Naylor.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Paradise and Iron
  More Ideas and Technology by Miles J. Breuer
  Tech news articles related to Paradise and Iron
  Tech news articles related to works by Miles J. Breuer

Autonomous Ship-related news articles:
  - Pinta The Robot Sailboat
  - First Crewless Ship? Umm...

Articles related to Transportation
San Francisco Autobus
Volvo's Autonomous Truck
Eviation Alice Electric Plane First Flight
Robotaxi By Cruise Premieres in Austin, Texas

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