Self-Driving Boats Are Happening.

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Just as you’ve grown accustomed to the imminent reality of driverless cars, a bunch of polymaths from AMS and MIT have driven the concept off-road into deep water. Their goal? To develop and build the aptly named Roboat and bring about the world’s first autonomous fleet for moving people and goods and ‘environmental sensing’. Their collaborative research project has been given a budget of €25 million over 5 years and is set to usher in a new chapter in the international push for autonomous vehicles.

The first prototypes of Roboat will be visible in the waters of Amsterdam in 2017. “Imagine a fleet of autonomous boats for the transportation of goods and people,” says Carlo Ratti, Professor at MIT and principal investigator in the Roboat-program, “but also think of dynamic and temporary floating infrastructure like on-demand bridges and stages, that can be assembled or disassembled in a matter of hours.”

Roboats could combine to form on-demand bridges. Roboats could combine to form on-demand bridges.

“Roboat offers enormous possibilities,” says Professor Arjan van Timmeren, AMS Institute’s Scientific Director, “We could for instance do further research on underwater robots that can detect diseases at an early stage or use Roboats to rid the canals from floating waste and find a more efficient way to handle the 12,000 bicycles that end up in the city’s canals each year.”

The Bottom Line: All eyes are on the Roboat development over the next five years. Uber will no doubt be hoping to rule the waves come 2021.

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