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AI-powered Mayflower, beset with glitch, returns to England

A sleek robotic trimaran retracing the 1620 travel of the renowned English vessel had to return Friday to fix a mechanical issue.

Nonprofit marine research organization ProMare, that worked together with IBM to construct the autonomous boat, said it made the choice to return to base"to investigate and repair a minor mechanical issue" but expects to be back on the trans-Atlantic journey as soon as possible.

With no people on board the boat, there is no one to make repairs while it is at sea.

Piloted by artificial intelligence technologies, the 50-foot (15-meter) Mayflower Autonomous Ship began its excursion early Tuesday, departing from Plymouth, England, also spending time off the Isles of Scilly before it headed for deeper waters.

It was supposed to take up to 3 weeks to achieve Provincetown on Cape Cod before making its way to Plymouth, Massachusetts. If effective, it could be the biggest autonomous vessel to cross the Atlantic.

There's some historical precedent for the malfunction: The first Mayflower that transported Pilgrim settlers to New England was supposed to set sail in the summer of 1620 but twice return to England due to a leaking problem impacting its sister ship, the Speedwell.

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