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TRUstworthy, Safe and Sustainable Transport for all

Building trust in complex and intelligent systems

A framework for scaling up autonomous transport

Autonomous electric passenger ferries hold significant promise for solving logistical and environmental challenges. What is lacking is the trust that these ferries can operate safely and reliably. The objective of TRUSST (the TRUstworthy, Safe and Sustainable Transport for all) is to build a stakeholder centric assurance framework focused both on technical and social risks and opportunities.

Zero-emission and autonomous ferries can solve transport and environmental needs for cities and local communities. They eliminate economic and ecological costs of roads and bridges when opening new infrastructure and housing developments. Their success and the benefits they bring will, however, depend upon technical assurance that they are fit for purpose as well as acceptance and trust by society.  

Integrated assurance framework  

TRUSST’s objective is to innovate an integrated assurance framework to transform a complex system into a trust ecosystem.  

At heart, an autonomous ferry service is a complex AI-governed cyber-physical system of ferries, docking/charging stations, and communication and support centres, backed by a digital twin. Traditional assurance methods and tools are not well-equipped to build trust in assets that are so digitalized. Future developments will require both the digitalization of assurance and the capabilities to assure digital assets. In addition, the ability to conduct continuous assurance is key, as the risks of digital assets and consequences of their deployment in society are not yet fully known.  

The assurance approach must also attend to ethical dilemmas and engage with citizens to ensure deployment of new technologies not only respond to societal needs and concerns, but also enhances lives and contributes to a more sustainable future.  

The Assurance of Digital Assets Framework is structured into two main phases. The first provides an in-depth understanding of the actual ferry and its use, giving central attention to the needs and possibilities of all stakeholders in order to identify risks and opportunities. The second phase builds an assurance case that eventually leads to the substantiation of all claims reflecting the ferry’s stakeholder needs.  

The TRUSST project uses the pilot ferry milliAmpere 2 owned by NTNU and the Zeabuz mobility system as a case for maturing this new Assurance of Digital Assets framework. It is partially funded by the Research Council of Norway. The project also has a reference group consisting of the Norwegian Maritime Authority, Torghatten and Trondheim municipality. 

The TRUSST project is a cornerstone for establishing the Zeabuz mobility system. We firmly believe that introducing autonomous, electric passenger ferries into society will require a rigorous assurance framework that ensures technical, ethical, environmental and societal trustworthiness and protects the interests of the full range of stakeholders.

  • Øyvind Smogeli,
  • CTO of Zeabuz

The benefits  

Providing trust in the deployment of complex systems in society allows the scaling up of new and appealing transport systems such as an autonomous, zero-emission ferry. Such vessels could solve both the transport and environmental needs of cities and local communities, while helping to decongest heavy traffic in urban centres.  But most importantly, the innovative assurance framework matured in this complex use case has the potential to be scaled up in many other cases to create trust in the digital transformation of industries, their products and operations. This is of particular importance given that current governance and  standards covering the digitalization of everything are still incomplete or immature.