Autonomous electric boats will soon be cruising Amsterdam's canals

·2-min read
The Roboat project could be used for waterway taxi services.

Small autonomous shuttles could soon appear on the famous canals of Amsterdam. Tests are currently underway to optimize their operation and find new uses for them, in addition to transporting people or goods.

Roboat is a collaboration between the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The idea is to develop the world's first fleet of autonomous water vessels to serve a city, in this case Amsterdam. In addition to the technological aspect, the goal is to relieve some of the heavy traffic regularly seen on the docks and bridges of the historic -- and tourist -- center of the city.

After several years of development, the teams recently unveiled a 1:1 scale prototype, ready to be tested on Amsterdam's iconic canals. It consists of a hull containing all the technical elements of the boat, i.e., four thrusters (to be able to move in any direction) and numerous sensors (LIDAR, GPS, cameras) allowing for localizing one's position and navigating around potential obstacles. In case of a problem ahead, the boat is able to calculate the best maneuver to avoid it and resume its course. Its battery gives it a lifespan of about 9 hours non-stop. As for the upper deck, it can be customized according to your needs.

This autonomous module can indeed be customized in several different forms and for various uses, whether for transporting people or goods, collecting waste or even forming various spaces for instance for an event or floating bridges.

This technology will be tested in the waters of the Marineterrein Amsterdam Living Lab for several months. It will be necessary to teach it about landmarks, where to dock and to avoid other ships. The more experience it gains, the more efficient it will become.

Amsterdam has 165 canals that make up almost a quarter of the city's surface.

Check out a video of Amsterdam's Roboat project: youtu.be/goFI1g7G3Xk

David Bénard

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